Hostage tale suggests IS wary of upsetting Turkey

SILOPI, Turkey — Turkish truck driver Ozgur Simsek was sleeping off a 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) fuel run to the Qayara power station in Iraq, he said, when he heard banging on his vehicle’s door.

“IS took over last night,” the power plant’s foreman shouted, referring to the Islamic State group. “Empty your trucks and run!”

Simsek rushed to unload his tanker’s fuel, he said, but it was too late. A battered pickup bearing the black-and-white logo of the Islamic State group rolled across the tarmac. Qayara’s security guards, who only moments before had been joking around with the truckers, turned on the men, donning black masks and brandishing weapons — taking all 32 Turkish men hostage.

For many foreigners, being caught by the group’s fanatical fighters has meant months of uncertainty, torture and, in some cases, a gruesome death. For Simsek and his colleagues, captivity would last just over three weeks. Their trucks were confiscated, but no one was harmed and no ransom was paid, according to a narrative of the June 10 attack and its aftermath pieced together by The Associated Press from interviews with drivers and a company executive.

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.

“The Islamic State treated these hostages in the way they did because they don’t want to provoke Ankara,” said George Readings, of London-based risk consultancy Stirling Assynt. “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.”