Jordanian hostages freed in Iraq after raid led by tribal chief


BAGHDAD, AP

A tribal chief in the turbulent city of Fallujah said Wednesday he led a raid that freed four Jordanian hostages, while a militant group reportedly released two Turkish workers after Turkish truck drivers agreed to halt deliveries to U.S. forces here. Meanwhile, fierce fighting between Iraqi police and militants killed 12 Iraqis in the northern city of Mosul.

The Jordanian hostages were kidnapped eight days ago along a highway near Fallujah by a gang of kidnappers that never named its demands, said Ahmad Abu-Jaafar, one of the freed captives.

“The kidnappers have nothing to do with the resistance,” Abu-Jaafar told The Associated Press by telephone. “The good people of Fallujah moved and save us from this.”

Also Wednesday, the Arab satellite network al-Jazeera reported that an al-Qaida-linked militant group in Iraq said it will free two Turkish hostages after their company promised to stop sending trucks to U.S. troops in Iraq.

Hours later, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said the men had been freed.

“The two Turkish hostages in Iraq have been released,” Turkey’s Anatolia news agency quoted Gul as saying. “This good news has made us happy.”

Turkey’s truckers association said Monday it was halting deliveries to U.S. forces in Iraq in hopes of freeing the men after the release of a video that showed militants shooting and killing contractor Murat Yuce.

In Mosul, dozens of masked men with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenade launchers moved through the streets in the Bab al-Toub area of the city. Police headed to the area and a gunbattle, punctuated by explosions, broke out, witnesses said. Please see HOSTAGES on page

The U.S. military said the violence was part of a series of attacks in the city, including a grenade attack that hit a home, a drive-by shooting at a police station and a roadside bomb attack on a .S. convoy that did not kill any U.S. troops.

The fighting killed 12 Iraqis and injured 26 others, according to Mahir Salam, an official at al-Jumhouri Hospital.

The violence began when militants tried to loot the al-Jazeera bank and were confronted by police and other security forces, said Hazem Jalawi, spokesman for the provincial government.

Another group attacked the Bab al-Shat police station with small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades, he said. Police responded, killing two of the attackers and arresting three others.

In response to the violence, police blocked five bridges in the city, the provincial government imposed a curfew and banned anyone from shooting without official authorization.

The raid to free the Jordanian hostages began after Sheik Haj Ibrahim Jassam received word Tuesday evening that the four captives were being held in a house on the edge of Fallujah, 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Baghdad, he said. About 100 armed members of Jassam’s tribe raided the house, and the five kidnappers inside fled.

The Jordanians were brought to Jassam’s house unharmed, he said.

“I called upon my brothers and tribesmen to free the hostages, so we raided the house last night,” Jassam told The Associated Press. “I’m glad that those innocent Muslims were freed.”

The four men were eventually handed over to Jordanian officials at a field hospital in Fallujah, but have now been moved elsewhere, Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Ayed said.

“They are now in a safe place which we will not disclose,” al-Ayed told reporters. He said the four were in “good health” and would arrive home on Thursday.

The kidnappers had “several requests,”he said. “We haven’t met any of them.”

The men were abducted by a group calling itself “Mujahedeen of Iraq, the Group of Death.” On July 27, Dubai Television broadcast a video showing four men holding what appeared to be Jordanian identification cards.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi civilian was killed when a roadside bomb detonated as an Iraqi National Guard patrol passed an area in the town of Baqouba, 57 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad Wednesday morning. The guards were unharmed, said Ali Hussein, from Baqouba’s General Hospital.

Also Wednesday, Karbala police announced they had arrested 315 Iranians and Afghans with forged passports. Most of those arrested Tuesday were being deported, though 16 were being question for possible links to terror cells, said Karbala police spokesman, Rahman Mishawi. Four others already confessed to plans to conduct terror operations, he said.