(photo credit: REUTERS)
ANKARA - Militants seized 48 Turks from the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday, including the consul-general, three children and several members of Turkey's special forces, a source in the Turkish prime minister's office said.
The group was taken from the consulate building to a militant base. Turkish authorities had contacted militant groups and confirmed all were unharmed, the source said.
Sunni insurgents from an al-Qaida splinter group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant
(ISIL), seized Mosul on Tuesday in a show of strength against Iraq's Shi'ite-led government.
"Certain militant groups in Mosul have been directly contacted to ensure the safety of diplomatic staff," a Turkish government source said.
The seizure of the consulate means at least 76 Turks are now being held by militants in Mosul. It comes a day after 28 Turkish truck drivers were abducted by ISIL militants while they were delivering diesel to a power plant in the city.
Turkey has close trade and political links with the Kurdish-controlled area to the north of Mosul that has not, for the moment at least, been targeted by ISIL. It sees a particular role in protecting the interests of the Turkmen ethnic minority in that area.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan held an emergency meeting with the Undersecretary of Turkey's National Intelligence Agency (MIT) and Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay to discuss the developments, officials said.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who had been due to deliver a speech at a United Nations counter-terrorism meeting in New York, cut short his visit and is returning to Turkey, officials from his office told Reuters.
Davutoglu had said on his Twitter account late on Tuesday, after the truck drivers were taken, that the necessary measures had been taken for the safety of the Turkish consulate in Mosul.