Militants seized the truckers June 9 in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Three days later, they took another 49 people from the Turkish consulate in Mosul. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said efforts were underway to secure the release of the Turks still in captivity.
The militants’ assault in Iraq has eased in recent days since encountering stiffer resistance in Shiite majority areas.
The rapid pace of the initial advance left 46 Indian nurses stranded at a hospital in the militant-held northern city of Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown. The nurses are safe but are being forced to move to an area controlled by the militants, according to Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.
He also said 40 Indian construction workers abducted two weeks ago near Mosul were still being held, but were unharmed.
Across the border in Syria, meanwhile, the al-Qaida splinter group seized several towns and villages as well as the country’s largest oil field Thursday as rival factions gave up the fight, Syrian activists said.
They said the jihadi group is in almost full control of a corridor stretching from the Syrian border town of Boukamal to the government-controlled provincial capital of Deir el-Zour to the northwest. Those gains in territory straddling the border between the two conflict-ridden countries effectively expand and consolidate areas held by the group — which has shortened its name to the Islamic State.
The majority of significant Syrian rebel brigades that have been fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad have rejected the group’s unilateral declaration of an Islamic state. The rebel groups, including the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, have battled the Sunni extremists since the beginning of the year. Nearly 7,000 people, mostly fighters, have died in the clashes.
However, the Nusra Front appears to be losing in Syria as fighters allied with powerful tribes in eastern Syria defect to al-Baghdadi’s group.