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Turkish businessman kidnapped in Iraq

Video footage aired Saturday showed a Turkish ship owner saying he and a ship captain were being held hostage in Iraq, as the captain broke down in tears.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Video footage aired Saturday on Turkish television showed a Turkish ship owner saying he and a ship captain were being held hostage in Iraq, as the captain broke down in tears.

Kahraman Sadikoglu 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 Turks and no demands were mentioned.

“Today is Dec. 23. We were captured four or five days ago,” Sadikoglu says on the videotape, released by Turkey’s Ihlas News Agency and 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.

“We don’t have any problems with the Iraqi government, we’re creating jobs and food for the Iraqis by clearing harbors” of sunken ships, Sadikoglu said. “If that is a crime too, then we will accept the punishment.”

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 American citizens.

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.”

Private CNN-Turk television, one of the broadcasters that aired the video, 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.

No kidnappers were seen in the video and no statement was released by the hostage-takers.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul 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.”

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. Kidnappings of businessmen by rivals have not been uncommon in Iraq.

In the video, Sadikoglu said he was working for the United Nations and the Iraqi government.

Sadikoglu assured their families they would be released soon. “We did not do anything wrong. We did not commit any mistakes.”

Sadikoglu is well-known in Turkey for salvaging ships around the world and renovating luxury yachts, including the “Savarano,” a luxury yacht once used by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.