Source AP ©

Assyrian cleric kidnapped in Turkey released

A Christian cleric who had been kidnapped in southeast Turkey was released Friday as security forces were following the abductors.

Gabriel Akkurt, a friend of the kidnapped Assyrian cleric Daniel Savci, had earlier said Savci was rescued by security forces in the province of Batman two days after he was abducted in neighboring Mardin province.

Batman's Deputy Governor Aziz Mercan's account was slightly different. He said security forces were closely following the abductors "through technological means," when the kidnappers left the priest and ran away, "probably out of fear."

Mercan would not elaborate on what kind of technological means were used by security forces or whether the kidnappers' whereabouts were known.

The abductors had called Akkurt after abducting Savci and demanded Ђ300,000 (US$445,000) for the cleric's return.

Local news agency Dogan aired footage that showed Savci giving a hug to one of the Turkish soldiers after he was rescued.

"May our state, country and army be blessed," Savci said in the TV footage. "We are happy."

Akkurt said he did not know the details of the operation or whether any money was paid to the abductors.

Assyrians are a religious minority in Turkey, which is predominantly Muslim but secular.

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