Three Turkish citizens kidnapped in Iran released

Three Turkish citizens kidnapped near Iran's border with Pakistan have been released, the foreign minister said Tuesday. The three men were on their way to Nepal when they were abducted near the Iranian city of Zahedan, where the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan meet in late December. Turkish officials said their captors made a ransom demand.

Iranian officials had said the initial information showed the three were taken by an Islamic group known as Jundallah, or God's Brigade, the same group that kidnapped nine Iranian soldiers last month. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul did not say when the three Serdar Durna, Yurdaer Etike and Avni Ozan were freed. He thanked the Iranian government for helping secure their release.

The Turks were in Zahedan and would travel to Tehran later on Tuesday before returning to Turkey on Wednesday, Gul said. Jundallah kidnapped nine Iranian soldiers in December and threatened to kill them unless the government paid a ransom and released 16 detained group members.

Last week, Iran said it detained 14 alleged Jundallah members, but did not say what they were accused of. The eastern area of Iran is a scene of frequent clashes between the police, drug smugglers and bandits. A militant group using the same name as Jundallah is suspected of numerous terror attacks in Pakistan, but it was not previously known to operate in Iran, reports the AP. N.U.