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Sep 2, 3:53 AM EDT

Masked men kidnap 16 Turkish workers in Baghdad



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BAGHDAD (AP) -- Masked men in military uniforms kidnapped 16 Turkish workers and engineers in Baghdad at dawn Wednesday, bundling them into several SUVs and speeding away, Iraqi security officials said.

They said the 16 are employed by a Turkish construction company contracted to build a sports complex in the sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City. The kidnappers stormed the construction site, where the workers were sleeping in caravans, and disarmed the guards before taking the workers away.

There were no reports of violence.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed that 16 Turkish nationals were kidnapped in Baghdad and said it was in constant contact with Iraqi authorities over the incident. It said that for security reasons it cannot reveal details on the workers or who employed them.

Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan told The Associated Press that authorities are investigating the incident and that a contingent of security forces has been tasked with tracking down the kidnappers.

The Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Neither the identity nor the motives of the kidnappers were immediately known.

Turkey recently began launching airstrikes against the Islamic State group in northern Iraq and allowing U.S. warplanes to use bases in southeastern Turkey to strike the Sunni extremist group.

It launched a simultaneous air campaign in northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a Kurdish militant group.

The style and scale of Wednesday's kidnapping harkened back to the sectarian violence in Baghdad in 2006 and 2007, when Sunni and Shiite militants kidnapped followers of the other sect. In most cases, the bodies of those kidnapped were found a day or two later with marks of torture and a bullet wound to the head.

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 the scale seen Wednesday have been almost unheard of in the past few years.

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Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

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