The news about the nurses follows reports that Iraqi security forces have been battling ISIS militants for control of the city, north of Baghdad, raising questions about whether ISIS is losing its grip on the area.

Syed said his understanding is that the nurses have been moved for their own safety.

"All of them are safe and unharmed," he said.

Asked whether the nurses were being held against their will, he said: "In zones of conflict, there's no free will."

Turkish truck drivers released

Thirty-two Turkish truck drivers who went missing in early June in Mosul, when ISIS fighters swept through the city, have been released, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday in a televised news conference carried by Turkish television stations.

"As a result of efforts and daily consultations for the past 23 days, now I am happy to say that our 32 drivers have been received by our consul general, and now our consul general is on the way to Irbil with the drivers," Davutoglu said.

The drivers will then be flown to Ankara, Turkey, he said.

There are still more than 40 staff members of the Turkish Consulate missing in Iraq, Davutoglu said. Efforts continue "nonstop" for their safe return, he said.

Among those missing are special forces soldiers, diplomats and children, who were seized by ISIS militants on June 11.

Baghdad bombings

A double bombing in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite neighborhood of al-Furhat left eight people dead and 17 wounded, police officials said early Thursday.

The blasts late Wednesday night targeted people leaving the al-Mustafa mosque after evening prayers in the neighborhood, which sits just 2 miles from Baghdad International Airport, the officials said.

More than 16 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, officials said.

They did not say whether those arrested were believed to be militants tied to ISIS.

Fighting in Karbala

Dozens were reportedly killed in days of fighting between Iraqi security forces and followers of a prominent Shiite cleric in the holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, authorities said Thursday.

The fighting raises concerns about whether infighting could fracture Iraq's Shiite majority, potentially sparking further violence in a country already battling extremist Sunni militants.

The battle began Tuesday when Iraqi troops raided the offices of prominent Shiite cleric Mahmoud al-Hassani al-Sarkhi, sparking a battle with the cleric's followers, they said.

The raid came after the cleric's followers blocked roads in and around shrines in Karbala.