ISTANBUL, Turkey – Iraqi militants are threatening to kill a Turkish hostage in Iraq if his company does not withdraw from the country within three days, private NTV television reported, but the company said Thursday that it had already pulled out its staff to meet the demands of other kidnappers.
NTV broadcast a video Thursday from a Turkish news agency showing Aytullah Gezmen (search), who has been missing for three weeks, sitting on a couch and displaying his Turkish passport to the camera. Gezmen was kidnapped at the same time as co-worker Murat Yuce, who was killed by militants earlier this month.
NTV quoted Gezmen as pleading for help from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (search) and begging his family to ask the transportation company that he worked for to withdraw from Iraq (search). NTV said that militants threatened to kill him if the company did not withdraw within 72 hours.
It was not clear when the video was filmed. The Bilintur company, where Gezmen worked, said it had already withdrawn all of its staff from Iraq in a bid to save Gezmen's life.
Iraqi insurgents earlier this month posted a video on the Internet showing the killing of Yuce, another Bilintur employee.
In the video broadcast Thursday, Gezmen, an Arabic language translator, said he and Yuce were getting materials from a U.S. base in Iraq when they were taken hostage. Gezmen said he had been held hostage for 24 days.
"We were stopped by mujahedeen (Islamic fighters) in Iraq. They asked us where we were going. We did not want to say, but they saw a paper in English in the car and asked again. Then we had to say the truth. We were then taken hostage," Gezmen said in the video.
In a statement faxed Thursday, Bilintur said it had withdrawn all staff from Iraq as of Aug. 15 in order not to put "Aytullah Gezmen's life at risk."
"We have no idea why this video was broadcast," a senior Bilintur official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We completed withdrawing all our staffers from Iraq on Sunday and have already announced this."
The official did not say how many employees the company had had in Iraq.
"We have no one left in Iraq, except our friend Aytullah," the official said. "We want those holding Aytullah to hear us: We are not there anymore. We want our friend to be released immediately."
Several Turkish workers and truck drivers have been kidnapped and released this year.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said one of two Turkish truck drivers kidnapped this weekend has been rescued and was returning to Turkey.
Gul did not say how the hostage was rescued. There was no word on the other driver.