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Dozens Of Turkish Hostages Freed, As ISIS Advances In Syria

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, center, poses with dozens of freed Turkish hostages at the Esenboga Airport in Ankara Saturday. The group was held by militants in northern Iraq for more than three months. Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, center, poses with dozens of freed Turkish hostages at the Esenboga Airport in Ankara Saturday. The group was held by militants in northern Iraq for more than three months.

Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

After more than 100 days in captivity, nearly 50 Turkish people are now free from the extremist group ISIS. The group includes diplomats and children, along with security personnel who were seized in June along with Turkey's consulate in Mosul.

As it celebrates the 49 hostages' return, Turkey is also receiving an influx of thousands of Kurdish people who are fleeing parts of Syria where ISIS has taken dozens of towns in recent days.

The circumstances of the hostage's release aren't known in detail; Turkey's government says they were rescued as a result of intelligence work and that no ransom was paid. They were flown to Ankara's main airport after crossing into southern Turkey late last night.

From southern Turkey, NPR'S Deb Amos reports:

"Turkish officials insist no ransom was paid — but provided few other details – after the release of the hostages, which included diplomats, their families, and special forces soldiers.

"Turkish television carried a live broadcast of an emotional reunion with families in the Turkish capital. The release came late Friday night, when the captives crossed into Turkey from the Syrian border.

"The group was kidnapped three months ago when ISIS militants swept into the Iraqi town of Mosul. Turkey has been a reluctant partner in the U.S.-led coalition to fight ISIS, saying the hostages were at risk."

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"I thank ... every single member of the national intelligence agency from the director to the field operatives," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, according to CNN. "I congratulate them for their big success from the bottom of my heart."

This week, the fighting in Syria has forced an estimated 40,000 civilians to head to the border with Turkey, fleeing ISIS fighters and heavy artillery. The extremist group has now claimed territory close to the border.

"The Syrian Kurdish militia was outgunned, according to Syrian activists in contact with Kurdish fighters," Deb Amos says. "Turkey opened a stretch of the frontier on Friday to allow mostly women and children to cross to safety."

A Syrian Kurd woman gives a bottle to a child Saturday, after they crossed the border between Syria and Turkey. Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

A Syrian Kurd woman gives a bottle to a child Saturday, after they crossed the border between Syria and Turkey.

Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images