The 55-year-old Edip Daniel Savci was taken late Wednesday, November 28, by unidentified people while he was traveling to the Mor Yakup Monastery near the town of Midyat in Mardin province, BosNewsLife monitored.
Turkish television showed the released bearded priest wiping tears from his eyes and embracing security personnel. "May our state, country and army be blessed," Savci was quoted as saying in a brief comment, before being whisked away.
Gabriel Akkurt, a friend of the kidnapped cleric, said Savci was rescued by security forces in the neighboring province of Batman on Friday, November 30. However Batman’s Deputy Governor Aziz Mercan suggested there had been no clash between security forces and the kidnappers, BosNewsLife learned.
He told reporters security forces had been following the abductors "through technological means" and that the kidnappers eventually left the priest and ran away, "probably out of fear."
The official refused to give details on what kind of technological means were used by security forces or whether the kidnappers’ demanded ransom of 300,000 Euro (over $443,000) for his release had been paid. The kidnappers had reportedly threatened to kill the priest unless the money was received.
In a statement, the Mardin Governor’s Office said the priest managed to reach the nearby town of Batman from where he had telephoned his friends. Turkish security forces picked up the priest and after taking statements returned him to the town of Mardin, the office added.
Local officials said the kidnapping was not religiously motivated. Savci has reportedly told friends that his three abductors were men in their 20s and they kidnapped him for ransom money.
Yet. the latest kidnapping has underscored frustration within the Turkish Christian minority about what they see as an increase in attacks against them, especially from Islamic militants. Three Christians, two Turks and a German, had their throats slit by youths who burst into their Christian publishing house in the southeastern town of Malatya in April.
Also, Turkish Armenian writer Hrant Dink was murdered in Istanbul in January by a young nationalist gunman and an Italian Catholic priest was killed in his church by a youth in Trabzon last year.
Adding to concerns is the fact that Christians have been caught in the middle of fighting between Turkish troops and Kurdish rebels, analysts say. The Turkish government has been under pressure to improve protection for the Christian minority at a time when it seeks to join the European Union.
Most of Turkey’s 75 million people are Muslim and it has barely 100,000 Christians, mostly of Greek and Armenian origin. The Syriacs, numbering about 25,000 in Turkey, still speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, experts say
Many have fled the region, BosNewsLife learned, although Christian families have also remained there to protect what they see as an ancient Christian culture and tradition in the area. Turkey’s Syriacs are part of one of Christianity’s oldest denominations and are also found in modern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
News about joy among Christians over the release of Savci was oveshadowed by reports that a plane operated by a budget airline crashed Friday, November 30, in mountains elsewhere in southwest Turkey, after apparently veering off course, killing all 57 people on board, officials said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that the aircraft may have struck a hilltop as it was preparing to land in the city of Isparta.
The fuselage and wings of the MacDonnell Douglas 83, operated by Atlasjet, were torn apart and pieces of metal and bodies, some still in their seats, were scattered across the area, Anatolia news agency reported. Television footage showed debris and victim relatatives at the scene of the crash. There were no signs of an explosion or a fire, news reports said. (With BosNewsLife Research and reporting from Turkey).