US Vice President Joe Biden (Photo: Reuters)
The United States on Thursday condemned the kidnappings of Turkish citizens in an attack by Islamist militants who have seized swathes of northern Iraq, and called for their immediate release.
Samantha Power, the US permanent representative to the United Nations, said the actions of the jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were a threat to the region.
"In particular, we condemn the kidnappings of Iraqi citizens and Turkish consulate personnel, their family members and other Turkish citizens residing in Mosul, and join the governments of Turkey and Iraq, as well as the international community, in calling for their immediate release," she said in a statement.
Power was meeting with Turkish officials in Ankara including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
She said ISIL's actions were a "clear security threat to Iraq and a growing threat to the region," accusing the militant group of seeking "to turn back the clock on the progress Iraq has made".
ISIL militants stormed the Turkish consulate in Mosul on Wednesday and kidnapped 49 citizens including the head of the mission. In addition, 31 Turkish truck drivers were kidnapped on Tuesday by ISIL fighters in the city, one of several seized by the group.
Turkey pledged Wednesday it would retaliate if its kidnapped citizens were harmed.
During a phone call with Erdogan, US Vice President Joe Biden said "the United States is prepared to support Turkey's efforts to bring about the safe return of its citizens".