Forty-six Turkish hostages, including diplomats, consulate guards and children, who had been captured and held for nearly three months by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq returned to Turkey Saturday morning following a successful Turkish covert operation. Three non-Turkish hostages taken in the same attack were also released.
Asked about their treatment during captivity, one hostage told Anadolu, a Turkish state-run news agency, that the Islamic militants "treated us a little better because we are Muslims. But we weren't that comfortable. There was a war going on."
Details of the hostage's release remain vague, but Turkish government sources have claimed that no shots were fired and no ransom was paid. "The Turkish intelligence agency has followed the situation very sensitively and patiently since the beginning and, as a result, conducted a successful rescue operation," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement.
"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.
It's also unclear whether the release will change Turkey's policy toward the Islamic State. It had been reluctant to join a coalition to defeat the militant group, citing the safety of its 49 kidnapped citizens.
But even with the hostages' release Stein said he doubted that Turkey would suddenly adopt a much more muscular attitude toward the militants.
"There will some changes, but not as much as people hope," he said.
[Photo Credit: AP Images]