Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 7 News List

British journalist expected to be freed: Shiite militia

AFP , BASRA, IRAQ

A British journalist kidnapped in Iraq's southern city of Basra was expected to be freed yesterday, a member of a powerful Shiite militia engaged in negotiating his release told reporters.

"We are in contact with the kidnappers. Yesterday we secured the release of the translator. We expect the British journalist to be freed today," said Harith al-Adhari, director of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's office in Basra.

The Iraqi translator kidnapped with the Briton by 10 armed men wearing masks from Basra's Palace Sultan hotel on Sunday was freed on Wednesday and immediately whisked away by police.

The kidnapped pair, who work for US television network CBS, have not been named.

Sadr's office announced on Wednesday it had struck a deal with the kidnappers and that the reporter and his translator would be released "within hours." It later said that the kidnappers had become "cautious."

The Iraqi authorities on Monday announced they had launched an "intensive" search for the pair.

Witnesses had identified one as a British photojournalist who had previously worked in Basra, and the other as his Iraqi interpreter. Both men had flown to Basra from Baghdad and checked into the hotel on Saturday.

Britain's Press Association said the kidnapped Briton had covered the fall of Baghdad in 2003 and worked for titles including the Sunday Telegraph, the New York Times and Financial Times.

The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said at least 208 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since March 2003.

Most are Iraqis who were killed by insurgent groups or militias angered by their coverage or ideologically opposed to their employers. Others have died when caught in crossfire.

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