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Four Foreign Hostages Freed in Iraq by Americans


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Four Foreign Hostages Freed in Iraq

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Four foreign hostages who were abducted in Iraq have been freed by U.S. special forces south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

Three Italians and a Polish contractor who were abducted on April 12 are in coalition control and are in "good health," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (search), the top U.S. general in Iraq, told reporters. All the hostages were at the same location and some suspects were detained at the site.

The rescue was not, however, the result of negotiations, Sanchez stressed. There was no reported exchange of gunfire, he said.

Earlier, Polish and Italian officials confirmed the freeing of the hostages.

"This is a happy conclusion," Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi (search) told state TV. He said the hostages were being transported aboard a coalition helicopter and would be flown back to Italy on Wednesday.

He praised coalition forces and thanked them for their help.

"Also, a thought, we should remember the fourth hostage, (Fabrizio) Quattrocchi who was killed in captivity," Berlusconi said.

The Italian hostages, who were in Iraq as private security guards, were abducted in April. A fourth Italian abducted with them, Fabrizio Quattrocchi (search), was slain shortly after the kidnapping and his body later returned to Italy. A tape of the killing was released.

The Pole is a construction company official was abducted last week after seven men stormed the Baghdad office of the Jedynka construction company. Another Polish employee abducted at the same time managed to escape.

"The operation was born from close cooperation between Italians and coalition forces with detailed intelligence work" by the Italians, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.

Antonella Agliana, a sister of one of the hostages, told the Italian news agency ANSA: "The Foreign Ministry just called me and told me: 'They're free, they're well and in safe hands.'"

Also Tuesday, a Turkish hostage was freed in Iraq but another Turk abducted with him remained in captivity, the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad said, Reuters reported.

The embassy initially said both Tarkan Arikoglu and Adnan Azizoglu had been freed, but later said only the latter had been released after a day in captivity.

Earlier, Iraqi resistance forces displayed seven Turks said to have been kidnapped because they worked for Americans. The forces also threatened companies cooperating with the U.S. with more attacks.

Videotape obtained by Associated Press Television News showed three of the hostages surrounded by armed men wearing masks. Four other hostages were shown to reporters separately.

The tape showed three men crouching on the floor, holding passports opened to the photo page.

Six masked men were standing behind the hostages. One was holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and two were holding assault rifles. The hostages were sitting against the backdrop of the old Iraqi flag, held by some of the kidnappers.

One of the masked men on the video urges Turkish citizens to stand by their "Iraqi Muslim brothers" by refusing to work with the U.S.-led coalition.

A videotape of the three Italians who were kidnapped in April was broadcast on the Al-Jazeera satellite network on June 3. With the footage came a written message from the captors that urged Italians to demonstrate against the policies of President Bush and Berlusconi's government.

An Iraqi armed group calling itself the Green Brigade had said it was behind the abductions.

The abductions were part of a wave of kidnappings of foreigners sparked by intense violence that began in April. As many as 40 people from several nations were abducted, though most were later freed.

Americans still held hostage include truck drivers William Bradley, 50, of Chesterfield, N.H., and Timothy Bell of Mobile, Ala. They were taken captive April 9 when their fuel convoy was attacked outside Baghdad. Both work for the Halliburton subsidiary KBR.

A military man taking part in the convoy, Pfc. Keith M. Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, also remains missing.

Four KBR employees were killed in the attack, and another U.S. soldier in the convoy was found dead later. A seventh KBR employee, Thomas Hamill of Mississippi, escaped from his captors May 2.

its on CNN.com also http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/06/08/iraq.hostages/index.html

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