Turkey's Foreign Ministry confirmed 49 Turkish consulate staff members, including the consul-general and family members, have been abducted by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant militants in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
The abductions came Wednesday, a day after ISIL took control of Iraq's second-largest city and seized 31 Turkish truck drivers who were transporting fuel to a thermal power plant.
Speaking as he prepared to leave a UN meeting on counter-terrorism in the United States to return to Ankara, the Turkish capital, to deal with the incident, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Iraqi government was responsible for the security of the consulate staff seized in Iraq's second-largest city earlier in the day.
Davutoglu cut short his New York visit and arrived in capital Ankara early on Thursday, a day after the ISIL militants kidnapped Turkish consulate staff members in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Turkey 'to retaliate' if abducted staff harmed in Iraq
Davutoglu warned that Ankara will not allow anyone harming its nationals to go unpunished.
"No one should dare test Turkey's power," said Ahmet Davutoglu, as he prepared to leave a UN meeting on counter-terrorism in the United States to return to the Turkish capital to deal with the incident.
He said: "We sent an evacuation order to the the consulate three days ago. However, as clashes have intensified, we left the decision up to our staff there.
"We were informed by the Iraqi government that the evacuation of our staff would be riskier, without security being provided, than staying within the consulate."
Calling for "solidarity," he said: "What is important in such circumstances is not to panic and to draw a road map for the security of our citizens."
Both the consulate staff members and Turkish truck drivers were reportedly in good health and had not been ill-treated.
The ministry strongly condemned the abductions and said Turkey would use every means available to save its consulate staff.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul held a summit in the Turkish capital attended by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chief of General Staff General Necdet Ozel, Deputy Prime Minister Beshir Atalay, Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru and the National Intelligence Organization Undersecretary Hakan Fidan.
Turkey held an emergency meeting with NATO allies, informing them over the kidnapping of the Turkish diplomatic staff.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and the abduction of the Turkish nationals, calling it " totally unacceptable."
"I'm urging the Government of Iraq, and broadly the regional countries and the whole international community, to be united to bring all these perpetrators to justice and to do all that is possible to have these diplomatic officers released safe and sound as soon as possible."
The U.S. also condemned the abduction and expressed United States' commitment to working with the Iraqi government and leaders across Iraq to support a unified approach against the ISIL's continued aggression.
"We are in touch with the governments of Turkey and Iraq and stand ready to provide any appropriate assistance," said State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki on Wednesday.
More than 300,000 residents have fled Mosul, where security forces and militants have been clashing since Friday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Tuesday that Iraq had been placed on "maximum alert" and called on the Iraqi parliament to declare a national state of emergency.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.