Iraq’s senior Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has condemned the kidnapping of a group of workers by gunmen in Baghdad, calling for their release.
“We demand the release of the kidnapped men and the end of such practices,” Sistani’s office said in a statement issued on Saturday.
By taking the law into their own hands, the unknown kidnappers are harming the “prestige of the state and weakening the elected government,” the statement said.
It also called on state security forces to take necessary measures to find and free the captives.
“Victimizing these innocents, who have no role in the region’s tragic events, is unethical and contrary to Islamic and legal principles,” Ayatollah Sistani’s office stated.
The group of abductees consists of 18 Turkish contract workers at a football stadium project in Baghdad’s Sadr City. They were kidnapped earlier this month.
On Friday, the kidnappers released a video on social media networks showing the hostages.
The gunmen in the video called for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop the flow of militants from Turkey into Iraq and the passage of stolen oil from Iraq’s Kurdistan through Turkish territory.
Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government is independently exporting oil via Turkey in a move the Iraqi government considers illegal, which is a bone of contention between Baghdad and Ankara.
Turkey has been widely accused of supporting the militancy that started in Syria and later spread to Iraq. There have been numerous reports of Ankara providing safe passage and arms to to Daesh Takfiri militants.