10 Turkish Hostages Released in Iraq

Islamic insurgents released 10 Turkish hostages in Iraq, and their employer said Tuesday that his company will resume operations in the wartorn country because it was unclear whether the abductions were politically motivated or criminal.

The hostages, who were released Monday night, arrived in the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad Tuesday morning, their company, the Ankara-based VINSAN (search), said.

"They treated us quite well, they gave us food and a place to sleep, they did not beat us or do anything like that," Osman Ayaz, one of the released hostages, told private CNN-Turk television by telephone from Baghdad. He said he had been held for 40 days.

"They told us that they would not kill us. They said all they wanted was the withdrawal of Americans and Turkish companies from Iraq," he said.

Ali Haydar Veziroglu, chairman of the board of VINSAN, said in Baghdad that Iraqi clerics, businessmen and Turkish diplomats were instrumental in securing the release of his workers, most of whom were truck drivers, NTV television reported.

"They are in good health, they were not treated badly, they're very happy to be released," Veziroglu told NTV by telephone from Baghdad.

In the background, the voices of two released workers talking to their families on the telephone could be heard.

In a video broadcast by Al-Jazeera television last month, a previously unknown militant group calling itself the "Salafist Brigades of Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq" (search) had said it would kill the 10 hostages if the company did not pull out of Iraq.

VINSAN announced in late September that it was halting operations in Iraq.

Veziroglu said Tuesday that the company will now resume its operations.

"Of course, of course we will continue ... our work here without suspension," Veziroglu said.

"We will not withdraw from Iraq," Veziroglu told reporters at his Baghdad offices, citing uncertainty about whether the kidnappers were insurgents or criminals. "Are they a political network or not a political network?"

Veziroglu, speaking through an interpreter, refused to say whether any ransom was paid.

All 10 workers attended Veziroglu's Tuesday news conference in Baghdad.

Murat Karaahmetli, one of the former hostages, said his first wish was to return home and hug his mother.

"I am eager to go home as soon as possible," he said. "My only wish is to see and embrace my mother."

He also said he had been aware of the danger he could face before coming to Baghdad.

"Consequences like this were not at all absent from our minds," he said.

Karaahmetli's father rejoiced when he saw his 25-year-old son on television, the Anatolia agency reported.

"It was a nightmare for us since he was abducted," Mehmet Karaahmetli told Anatolia. "My prayers have been answered. "When I spoke to him I felt as if all the world was mine."

At least seven other Turkish companies have withdrawn from Iraq to secure the release of kidnapped staff. None of those companies has returned to Iraq.

VINSAN was one of 21 international companies taking part in a $160 million road tender in Iraq.

Insurgents in Iraq have kidnapped more than 150 foreigners in their campaign to drive out coalition forces and hamper reconstruction. Most have been kidnapped for ransom and freed unharmed, but 29 have been killed by their abductors, including several Turks.

A video posted on the Internet Monday showed a Turkish contractor and an Iraqi Kurdish translator being beheaded by insurgents. A statement said they had been taken captive by the Ansar al-Sunnah Army (search) — the same group that earlier killed 12 Nepalese hostages.

Also Monday, the Arabic language television station Al-Arabiya broadcast a video showing three hooded gunmen threatening to behead another Turkish hostage within three days if the United States does not release all Iraqi prisoners and all Turks leave Iraq.