* Truck drivers arrive safely in southeastern Turkey
* Released captives in good health, minister Davutoglu says
* Forty-nine more Turks still held by militants in Mosul
(Updates with the arrival of truck drivers in Turkey)
By Tulay Karadeniz
ANKARA, July 3 Thirty-two truck drivers abducted
by Islamist militants in Iraq three weeks ago arrived home in
Turkey on Thursday, and Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu
said efforts to secure the release of 49 more abductees were
There were emotional scenes as the drivers were reunited
with their families, with children and relatives running to
embrace their loved ones at the airport in southeastern
Sanliurfa border province.
The drivers, who were held captive for 23 days, appeared in
good health and said they had not been mistreated by the
"They first read verses from the Quran and told us that we
are free this morning and that we can call our families," one
truck driver who was released said as he held his son in his
arms. "We ate bread, cucumbers and slept in our trucks."
Drivers declined to answer questions on the 49 Turks still
held in Iraq, including special forces soldiers, diplomats and
children, who were seized in the northern city of Mosul by
Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants on June
Two truck drivers told CNN Turk television that Turkish
officials had advised them not to speak on the issue.
"We will continue to work extensively on the release of our
citizens who were left behind," Davutoglu said in a press
Turkey has close trade and political relations with the
Kurdish-controlled area located to the east of Mosul and which
has not been targeted by ISIL.
The truck drivers, who were abducted by ISIL militants while
delivering diesel, were initially held at a power plant in the
Gyarah region of Mosul.
The seizure of so many Turks in Iraq has prompted criticism
of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government for failing to
foresee the danger and to evacuate the Mosul consulate sooner.
But Erdogan, who declared his candidacy for the August
presidential election on Tuesday, has accused his opponents of
trying to make political capital out of a highly sensitive
Turkey had warned that it would retaliate if any of its 80
nationals seized by the al Qaeda splinter group were harmed and
ambassadors of the NATO defence alliance held an emergency
meeting in Brussels at Turkey's request.
ISIL this week renamed itself the Islamic State and declared
its leader "caliph" - the historical title of successors of the
Prophet Mohammad who ruled the Muslim world - after its forces
captured swathes of territory in a lightning drive across
The offensive threatens to dismember Iraq and leaves Turkey
facing a widening Islamist insurgency affecting two of its
southern neighbours, with ISIL also making territorial gains in
Syria near the Turkish border.
It was not clear if any demands had been made by ISIL for
the release of its prisoners, either those that have been freed
or those still being held.
Iraq is Turkey's second-biggest export market and largest
oil supplier. The Turkish Foreign Ministry says an estimated
120,000 Turks are registered as resident in the country.
(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun, Ceyda Caglayan and Ece
Toksabay; Writing by Daren Butler and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by
Mark Heinrich and Hugh Lawson)