Saturday, 49 hostages (46 Turks and three Iraqis) were released by ISIS after capturing them over 100 days ago. However, there are many questions lingering in terms of what motivated the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants to free the captives. While the Turkish government insists no ransom was paid and there were no concessions, some political and counter-terrorism experts are suspicious.
According to a BuzzFeed story on September 21, ISIS released 49 hostages to Turkish intelligence officials in Syria, who escorted the group of men, women, and two children to the Esenboga airport in Ankara.
Back in June, ISIL extremists overran the Turkish Consulate in Mosul while targeting wide swaths of territory in Iraq and portions of Syria.
Sources say the operation came to a peaceful ending with no loss of life due to efforts by the intelligence community, not by Special Operations, as some suspected.
Opposition leader Devlet Bahceli is not convinced ISIS freed the 49 hostages on their own accord. Instead, he suggests the Turkish and/or Iraqi governments made concessions that may have reinforced the Islamic State’s agenda.
Consul General Ozturk Yilmaz was among the 49 captives released to the Turkish. Apparently, he had a gun held to his head and was made to believe he would die unless he made a statement in support of the Islamic State. He did not give in.
Ironically, the extremist group known for mass decapitations and brutal murders did not assault any of the hostages. Instead, they forced them to watch videos of beheadings and constantly threatened them with violence. Some believe because the kidnapped group was all Muslim, their lives were spared.
“What kind of bargaining was made with (ISIS), what was promised in return for our citizens’ freedom remains a mystery. What went on behind the scenes during the negotiations certainly won’t remain a secret.”
Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who chairs the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, agrees with Bahceli about the free hostages from the ISIS militant group.
“The official explanation sounds a bit too good to be true. There are some very legitimate and unanswered questions about how this happened.”
Undoubtedly, the narrative will evolve, but with 49 hostages released by ISIS and safely back in the hands of their governments, family members are just happy their loved ones are back at home.