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Dozens of Turkish hostages seized by the Islamic State group in Iraq were freed Saturday, resolving a serious crisis which Turkish officials had long cited as a reason to avoid moving aggressively against the violent militant group. The 49 hostages were captured from the Turkish Consulate in Mosul, Iraq on June 11, when the Islamic State group overran the city in its surge to seize large swaths of Iraq and Syria. But the circumstances of their release — which drew flag waving crowds to the Turkish capital’s airport — were clouded in mystery.
Turkish leaders gave only limited details of the release and the hostages declined to answer all but the most general questions from journalists when they arrived at Ankara airport around midday Saturday. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported no ransom had been paid and “no conditions were accepted in return for their release” but the organization didn't cite any source for its reporting.
“I think it's fair to say that we haven’t been told the full story,” said Aaron Stein, an associate fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute who has studied Turkey’s security policy.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the release was the result of the intelligence agency's “own methods,” and not a special forces operations, but he didn't elaborate. “After intense efforts that lasted days and weeks, in the early hours, our citizens were handed over to us and we brought them back to our country,” Davutoglu said.