ANKARA, Turkey – One of Turkey's richest businessmen said he has been kidnapped in Iraq, appearing in a video aired Saturday alongside one of his weeping employees and saying they were being treated well by their captors.
Kahraman Sadikoglu (search), president of the Istanbul-based Tuzla Shipyard, and ship captain Ahmet Yurtdas had not been heard from since they left the southern Iraqi city of Basra by land on Dec. 16, according to their families.
The footage did not say who was holding the two men or mention demands.
Several newspapers said a ransom demand of $25 million had been made, but Foreign Ministry officials and family members of the hostages refused to confirm the reports.
"Today is Dec. 23. We were captured four or five days ago," Sadikoglu said on the videotape, broadcast on Turkish television. "We're fine and they will check us out, what we're doing here, and will hopefully release us. God is Great."
Sadikoglu said he was working for the United Nations (search) and the Iraqi government on a project clearing harbors of sunken ships. "We don't have any problems with the Iraqi government, we're creating jobs and food for the Iraqis," he said. "If that is a crime too, then we will accept the punishment."
In his mid-50s, Sadikoglu is renowned for salvaging ships around the world and restoring luxury yachts. One of Turkey's wealthiest men, he is popular among many Turks for having renovated and rescued the Savarona, a luxury yacht that once belonged to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (search), the founder of modern Turkey. The Savarona is listed as one of the world's largest yachts.
His wife, Julide Sadikoglu, expressed hope that her husband and the captain would be released soon, the Anatolia news agency reported.
"I understood from Kahraman's speech that there is nothing to be afraid of," his wife said after watching the video. "I am very happy to see them healthy."
She said Sadikoglu was doing business on his own and that he was not related to "Americans, Britons or any other state," Anatolia reported. Sadikoglu reportedly employed some 40 Turkish and Iraqi workers in Basra, according to Turkish newspapers.
In the video, Sadikoglu said he was working for the United Nations and the Iraqi government.
More than 170 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq this year, and at least 34 of them — including seven Turks — have been killed by their captors. Besides the two Turks in Saturday's video, at least four foreigners are known to still be held, three of them Americans.
Sadikoglu looked calm but said Yurtdas was "demoralized." The captain burst into tears when he tried to speak.
"Don't worry about him," Sadikoglu said of the captain. "We're pretty good. They're taking good care of us. We've been given tea, food and bread."
A television station said the voices of Turkish-speaking men were heard in the background, suggesting that Turkish-born militants who've joined Iraq's insurgency might be involved in the kidnapping.
Some Turkish newspapers speculated that Sadikoglu might have been kidnapped to prevent him from bidding on a multimillion dollar contract to salvage ships sunken during the Iran-Iraq war in the waters off Basra.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul (search) said Turkey was doing its best to find and secure the release of Sadikoglu and Yurtdas. "We've mobilized all our means," he told reporters. "We will do whatever is necessary. I hope they're alive."
Sadikoglu assured their families they would be released soon. "We did not do anything wrong. We did not commit any mistakes."