ANKARA, Turkey – A Turkish construction company said Tuesday it was halting operations in neighboring Iraq (search) to try to save the lives of 10 employees kidnapped by militants.
The Ankara-based VINSAN (search) construction company said it was freezing operations, adding that its kidnapped employees were innocent and were trying to support their families.
In a video broadcast Saturday by Al-Jazeera television, a previously unknown militant group calling itself the "Salafist Brigades of Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq" said it would kill the 10 hostages if the company did not pull out of Iraq within three days.
Most of the 10 hostages were truck drivers, according to the company.
VINSAN board chairman Ali Haydar Veziroglu, who was in Baghdad, said in a statement addressed to the Iraqi people that his company was not involved in any partnerships with any U.S. firms and was working on a road project.
"Asking the Turkish companies including our company to leave Iraqi territories by using illegal and odious deeds is sorrowful and dubious," Veziroglu said. "Dear beloved Iraqi people, we do not deserve this."
Veziroglu also called on Iraqi clerics to intervene.
The firm was one of 21 international companies taking part in the $160 million road project.
Militants waging a violent insurgency in Iraq have increasingly turned to kidnapping foreigners in an effort to drive out coalition forces and contractors.
A number of Turks have been kidnapped and several have been killed, and at least seven Turkish companies have withdrawn from Iraq to secure the release of kidnapped staff.