Sun, Aug 08, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Four truck drivers taken hostage

IRAQ The four from Lebanon were captured while driving near Ramadi, a volatile region where resistance to the current regime and its agents is particularly strong

REUTERS , BEIRUT

A driver and his son make tea near their trucks at a rest station in Adra, 80km from the Iraqi border, on their way to Iraq, Friday. Truck drivers are the main victims of kidnappers in Iraq, and four Lebanese went missing Friday while a Turkish driver was killed and two others reported kidnapped.

PHOTO: AFP

Four Lebanese truck drivers have been taken hostage in Iraq, a source in Beirut's Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The source said the four were captured on Thursday while driving on a road between Baghdad and Ramadi, a volatile region west of the capital where resistance to the presence of foreigners in Iraq is particularly strong.

He had no information about who had taken them or who they worked for, although relatives of two of the missing men said they were employed by Lebanon's al-Jubeili transit company.

The head of the Lebanese Truckers' Association said the drivers were taking electric generators to Iraq to sell to traders and had no links with US or any other foreign troops.

"They were supposed to arrive in Baghdad last night," Chafic al-Assis told Reuters. "Our office in Baghdad called this morning to say they didn't show up."

A family in north Lebanon identified two of the truckers as Nasir al-Jundi and Taha al-Jundi, and said they had left Lebanon on Sunday. Other Lebanese drivers in Iraq called the family on Friday to say they had not arrived.

Relatives said the two were brothers and each had a wife and two children. They appealed for their release, saying they had gone to Iraq only to earn a living.

"We have asked the foreign ministry and those responsible in Lebanon to get them freed because all they were doing was bringing Iraqis the basic things they need," said Abdulrahman al-Jundi, a family member.

Border documents listed two other Lebanese men who crossed with the brothers as Khaldun Osman and Qasim Murqbawi.

Assis said diplomats in Baghdad and Beirut were trying to find out who kidnapped them.

There are now five Lebanese nationals missing in Iraq. Businessman Antoine Antoun was kidnapped along with a Syrian driver last Friday, according to his relatives in north Lebanon.

Several Lebanese in Iraq have been taken hostage and released in recent months.

Some of their captors demanded ransoms or accused the men of working too closely with US forces in Iraq.

In June, one Lebanese hostage was killed.

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