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BAGHDAD (AP) — A video from a previously unknown militant group in Iraq surfaced on social media Friday, showing 18 Turkish workers who were abducted in Baghdad last week and threatening Ankara with the "most violent means" if its demands are not met.
The men, employed by Turkish construction company Nurol Insaat were working on a sports complex in the Iraqi capital's sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City. Gunmen stormed the site on Sept. 2 as the workers were sleeping in caravans, breaking down doors and disarming the guards before taking the workers away.
The 3-minute video released shows the 18 seated in three rows in front of five militants in black masks with machineguns. They appear tired as they identify themselves and give their hometowns.
Behind them is a blue wall emblazoned with the group's alleged name, "Death Squads" in Arabic. Next to the name are the words "Oh, Hussein" — a reference to a revered Shiite figure who was the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, suggesting the group is Shiite.
The group demands that Turkey halt the flow of militants into Iraq, stop the passage of oil from Iraq's northern Kurdish region via Turkish territory and lift what's described as a "siege" on Syrian towns and villages, mainly inhabited by Shiites. It also assails "wrongful" foreign policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
One by one, the abducted men repeat the same sentence, asking Erdogan to meet the kidnappers' demands so they can be released.
The brazen abduction earlier this month laid bare serious security gaps in the heavily guarded Baghdad. Turkey has identified the men as 14 laborers, three engineers and one accountant.
The Iraqi officials said earlier that an Iraqi national was kidnapped along with the Turks. Shortly after the abduction, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi blamed organized crime for the kidnapping, but did not elaborate.
Baghdad has been torn by violence for over a decade now, with roadside bombs, suicide attacks and assassinations occurring almost daily. While kidnapping for ransom has continued, abductions on this scale have been almost unheard of in the past few years.
Iraq's most recent turmoil has stemmed from the emergence of the extremist Islamic State group, a splinter of Iraq's al-Qaida branch, which blitzed across the country to seize a third of Iraq's territory last summer.
Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.