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Analysis: Turkish Hostage Taking in Iraq Likely IS Retaliation

  • Heather Murdock

Iraqi security forces guard the entrance to a sports complex being built by a Turkish construction company, in the Shi'ite district of Sadr City, Baghdad, Sept. 2, 2015.

Iraqi security forces guard the entrance to a sports complex being built by a Turkish construction company, in the Shi'ite district of Sadr City, Baghdad, Sept. 2, 2015.

The abduction of 18 Turkish construction workers in Baghdad Wednesday is likely retaliation from Islamic State militants angered by Turkey's efforts to defeat the group, according to Carnegie Europe scholar Marc Pierini. No one has claimed responsibility.

“There is a reason for ISIS to create trouble for Turkey,” he said. “A very precise reason: the agreement with the U.S.”

The abduction, however, is unlikely to change Turkey’s policy towards the so-called Islamic State, said Yan St.-Pierre of security consulting group MOSECON. Turkey announced Saturday that it had begun airstrikes against the Islamic State in conjunction with the United States, and the country is allowing U.S. warships to operate from one of its airbases.

“Obviously it’s a blow but it’s not something that will deter the Turkish army or Turkish security from proceeding with their tactics and strategies,” said St.-Pierre.

Turkey is the only country that has successfully negotiated freedom for hostages after a mass kidnapping by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, added Pierini. And despite hostilities, the country is likely to try to negotiate ahead of November elections.

In 2014, Turkey successfully negotiated the release of 46 of its nationals after they were kidnapped in Mosul. Local reports said Turkey released 180 IS members in exchange for the hostages, which Pierini says, is a hefty price.

“There was a big ratio. One Turkish hostage was worth several ISIS prisoners, or ISIS sympathizers,” he added. “This time will be more difficult.”

That release came less than a month after the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State began bombing the territories the militant group had taken over. Turkey did not participate.

Critics say Turkish efforts to fight the Islamic State group are not genuine, as the country considers Kurdish rebels a greater threat. By this logic, the Islamic State group could be considered beneficial to Turkey, because it is also fighting the Kurds.

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