Thu, Aug 05, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Turkish and Jordanian hostages freed


Militants in Iraq freed four Jordanian and two Turkish drivers after taking them hostage to put pressure on their companies to stop working in the country, relatives and media said yesterday.

The four Jordanians, who were freed in the Iraqi town of Fallujah on Tuesday night, were to be handed over to Jordanian diplomats in Baghdad later yesterday, relatives said.

"They are now staying in the home of Haji Ibrahim Mohammad in the town of Fallujah. They spent the night in his house after their release last night by their kidnappers," said Mohammad Hassan Abu Jafaar, the brother of Ahmad Hassan Abu Jafaar, one of the four drivers seized nine days ago.

Al Jazeera television reported that a militant group linked to al-Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had released two Turkish drivers it was holding hostage because their companies had agreed to stop working in Iraq.

"Due to the Turkish firm's decision to stop sending supplies to US forces in Iraq, the Tawhid and Jihad Group has decided to free the two Turkish hostages," said a videotaped statement from the group broadcast on the Arabic-language channel.

In Amman, a government source confirmed the release of the four Jordanians and said local mediators were making preparations for their handover to embassy officials in Baghdad.

Maher Sinoqrut, brother of freed hostage Ahmad Sinoqrut, 26, credited tribal leaders and local elders, who were asked by Jordan to act as mediators, for securing their release.

Maher said his brother had telephoned him on Tuesday night to say he had been freed and was in good health.

A group calling itself the Death Squad of Iraqi Resistance said last Thursday it was holding the Jordanians to put pressure on their transport company to stop cooperation with US forces in Iraq. It also urged Arabs to pressure on governments to end support for the US-led forces.

The kidnappers were reported to have been pleased by a sit-in organized by the relatives urging US ally Jordan to end support for the US military campaign in Iraq and praising anti-American insurgents.

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