• Hostage tale suggests IS wary of upsetting Turkey
    San Antonio Express-News, 09/30/2014 - 4:50am

    For many foreigners, being caught by the group's fanatical fighters has meant months of uncertainty, torture and, in some cases, a gruesome death. The episode paints a picture of a militant group unusually careful not to anger Turkey's government, and may offer insights into the mysterious release of 49 hostages from Turkey's consulate in Mosul, Iraq, just over a week ago. If Turkey decided to crack down on the Islamic State's support, recruitment, fundraising and oil-selling networks that run through Turkey, that would have a major impact on Islamic State's ability to take and hold territory in Syria and Iraq. Turkey has been a reluctant member of the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, but officials reject the suggestion that they've tiptoed around the terror group, and appear to have recently made strides in intercepting foreign fighters and cracking down on oil smuggling. Vehbi Demir, one of the few truckers who spoke Arabic, said the atmosphere at a safe house where the Islamic State militants took some of them that morning was one of confusion and panic. Drivers kept the keys to their trucks and could occasionally retreat to their air-conditioned cabs to watch satellite television and even use the batteries to recharge smartphones, which a few had kept hidden from their captors. Food deliveries were irregular but included bread, cucumbers, watermelon and meat, which the truckers cooked with camping cylinders and bits of wood. Video shot from inside their makeshift prison shows a group of truckers watching television together on a carpets and mattresses laid out on the floor. Bayrak described the experience as frightening, saying he witnessed children as young as 8 or 9 holding weapons and encountered four suicide bombers with explosive vests getting ready to leave to target Iraqi forces. Video covertly shot by one of the truckers shows his worn but happy-looking comrades being carried in pickup trucks under a giant Islamic State flag later that day.

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