Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has announced that 49 Turkish hostages seized by Islamic State (IS) militants in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul have been brought safely back to Turkey.
Davutoglu said on September 20 the group were all in satisfactory condition after being held by Islamic State since June 11, when Turkey's consulate was overrun as IS captured the city.
The hostages included Consul-General Ozturk Yilmaz, other diplomats, soldiers, and children.
They were brought to the southern Turkish city of Sanliurfa in the early morning hours.
Davutoglu, who cut short an official visit to Azerbaijan to travel to Sanliurfa, met with the freed hostages before boarding a plane with them to the capital, Ankara.
Turkish authorities gave only limited details of the release.
President Recep Teyyip Erdogan in a statement praised an "operation which was preplanned, whose every detail was calculated, which lasted through the night in total secrecy and ended successfully this morning."
The statement said Turkish intelligence agency "MIT has followed the situation very sensitively and patiently since the beginning and, as a result, conducted a successful rescue operation."
Davutoglu said the release was the result of the intelligence agency's "own methods."
"After intense efforts that lasted days and weeks, in the early hours, our citizens were handed over to us and we brought them back to our country," Davutoglu told reporters in Sanliurfa.
Independent broadcaster NTV said that no ransom was paid to free the hostages. NTV said there were no clashes with Islamic State militants during the operation to release them.
It said MIT had tracked the hostages as they were moved to eight different locations inside Iraq and Syria during their 101 days in captivity. The broadcaster didn't cite its sources.
Turkey, a member of the NATO military alliance and a key U.S. ally in the region, had been reluctant to join a coalition to defeat IS militants, citing the safety of the hostages.
The extremist group beheaded two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker as payback for air strikes that Washington has launched against the militants in Iraq.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Trend.az