Islamic state: Dozens of Turkish hostages freed after being seized by Isis militants in Iraq

Hostages, including diplomatic staff and children, are now back in Turkey

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Nearly 50 hostages being held by Islamic State (Isis) militants in Iraq have been freed after more than three months in captivity and are now in Turkey.

The 46 Turks and three local Iraqis were seized in Mosul on 11 June, when the Isis overran the region and stormed the Turkish Consulate. They included diplomatic staff and children.

The exact details of their rescue are still unclear, but President Tayyip Erdogan described the mission to free them as a covert rescue operation. All of the hostages are believed to be in good health

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who cut short an official visit to Azerbaijan to travel to Sanliurfa, hugged the freed hostages before boarding a plane with them to the capital Ankara.

"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," he said after their release.

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"I thank the prime minister and his colleagues for the pre-planned, carefully calculated and secretly-conducted operation throughout the night," Mr Erdogan said in a statement.

"MIT (the Turkish intelligence agency) has followed the situation very sensitively and patiently since the beginning and, as a result, conducted a successful rescue operation."

The hostages had been held in eight separate addresses in Mosul, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency. Their whereabouts were monitored by drones and other means, it said.

The Anadolu Agency reported no ransom had been paid and "no conditions were accepted in return for their release". The agency also reported there were five or six previous attempts to secure the Turks' release, but none of them were successful.

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Independent broadcaster NTV said Turkey said there were no clashes with Isis during the operation to free the hostages.

Their capture had left Turkey, a member of the NATO military alliance and a key US ally in the Middle East, hamstrung in its response to the Sunni insurgents.

The United States is drawing up plans for military action in Syria against Islamic State fighters, but Turkey had made clear it did not want to take a frontline role, partly because of fears for the fate of the hostages.

Additional reporting by agencies