After more than three months in captivity, Turkish intelligence agents brought dozens of hostages abducted by ISIS militants in northern Iraq back to Turkey, in what President Tayyip Erdogan described as a covert rescue operation.
Security sources told Reuters the hostages were released overnight in the town of Tel Abyad on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey after being transferred from the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa.
Turkey did not release details about the rescue operation or clarify in what ways the hostages were released or rescued, but noted that through a source, the intelligence agency was able to track the hostages as they were moved from city to city, eventually putting them near the Turkish border which made the rescue possible.
"I thank the prime minister and his colleagues for the pre-planned, carefully calculated and secretly-conducted operation throughout the night," Erdogan said in a statement.
"MIT (the Turkish intelligence agency) has followed the situation very sensitively and patiently since the beginning and, as a result, conducted a successful rescue operation" he said.
The 46 Turkish hostages, including diplomats, soldiers and children, were seized from Turkey's consulate in Mosul on June 11, along with three Iraqis, who were also released.
According to Turkey's NTV channel, government sources say that no ransom was paid to ISIS and no country mediated the release.