Three Peshmerga that had been captured by the Islamic States, were finally rescued after 96 days in captivity by Kurdistan’s elite Counter Terrorism Group. The CTG is part of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s 70th forces, a coalition of PUK politically affiliated Peshmerga based military units. The rescue took place over the weekend in the Dubiz region of Kirkuk, a disputed territory that has seen an utter breakdown in security over the past few months.

One of the POWs, a Peshmerga by the name of Shwan Karim Mohammed, told local media that, “We have a very happy feeling. We were captives in the hands of Daesh [ISIS] for 96 days, and we were blindfolded the entire time. We are seeing the world now for the first time after 96 days.” He continued to thank the CTG forces and said he and his fellow captives were treated very badly by the militants who had captured them.

The men when rescued all had long hair and beards, a hallmark of the Islamic State and a practice they enforce on anyone they can. Another Peshmerga, Mohammed Hassan Ahmed said,“We were blindfolded for 96 days. We could not see anything. I am delighted now.” The third man, Hardi Adnan, expressed similar gratitude saying, “For 96 days, not to see your mother, father, children, not to see anything … Mr. Polad and Lahur [Talabani] did something unthinkable for us. I would like to announce it from here that I am a PUK [member], and I tell every PUK [supporter] not to turn their backs on it. I really thank them. They rescued us from the ocean.”

Leader of the CTG, Lahur Talabani, tweeted that, “After 96 days of being held hostage by ISIL, these three very brave Peshmerga were finally reunited with their families. Incredibly proud of our CTG forces in their relentless pursuit to ensure they were returned safely back,” following the successful raid.

Polad Talabani who is the commander of the group told local media that, “These comrades were captives in the hands of Daesh for 96 days. We had laid out plans in the past 20 to 30 days, and we wanted to carry out the task two to three times, but we couldn’t because it would jeopardize their lives. We were able to successfully carry out the operation.” He continued to inform press that a special branch of CTG exists specifically to free POWs. Dozens of Peshmerga soldiers are still missing from the ISIS war and many are believed to be still in captivity by Kurdish officials. Ashwaq Jaf, a Minister of Kurdistan’s Parliament, is spearheading an investigation presently as to the remaining missing Peshmerga‘s locations.