IRAQ Raid frees four; group promises Turks' freedom
Mosul saw a fierce gunbattle between police and militants today.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A tribal chief in the turbulent city of Fallujah led a raid that freed four Jordanian hostages kidnapped a week ago, the chief said today, while a militant group promised to free two Turkish truck drivers whose company agreed to pull out from Iraq.
A brother of one of the four Jordanian hostages, Mohammed abu Jaafar, said that he'd spoken by telephone with his brother Ahmad, who told him: "Now I am free. I was in the hands of evil people. Now I am in the hands of good people."
In the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, fierce fighting broke out today between Iraqi police and militants after dozens of masked men with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenade launchers moved through the streets. Police headed to the area where the gunmen were seen and a gunbattle broke out, witnesses said.
There were no immediate details on casualties.
The Arab satellite network al-Jazeera reported that the Al-Qaida-linked movement of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Tawhid and Jihad group, said it will free the two Turkish hostages.
Turkey's truckers association said it was halting deliveries to U.S. forces in Iraq in hopes of freeing the other two men after the Monday release of a video showing militants shooting and killing another Turkish truck driver, Murat Yuce.
Sheik Haj Ibrahim Jassam said he received word Tuesday evening that four kidnapped Jordanians were being held in a house on the edge of the city of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad. He said that once the raid began, the kidnappers fled the house and the four men were brought to his house unharmed.
"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 abducted by a group calling itself "Mujahedeen of Iraq, the Group of Death." The kidnapping became known July 27, when Dubai Television broadcast a video tape showing four men holding what appeared to be Jordanian identification cards.
Families of the four -- three drivers and a businessman -- had previously said the kidnappers promised to free the Jordanians after their relatives and fellow truck drivers staged an anti-American demonstration Friday.
The four were only the latest truck drivers to be taken hostage in Iraq as part of insurgents' campaign to spoil reconstruction work. Kidnappers have found the poorly protected drivers easy targets, seizing them at will with little concern about their country of origin.
Their strategy has also been effective: Several companies in the Middle East have halted work in Iraq after employees were kidnapped. In the insurgents' biggest coup, the Philippines withdrew its small troop contingent from Iraq a month early to win the release of a captured Filipino truck driver.
Tawhid and Jihad claimed in a video July 30 to have kidnapped the Turks and threatened to behead them within 48 hours unless their Turkish company leaves Iraq.
The two men who were to be released, Abdurrahman Demir and Sait Unurlu, were shown in a video broadcast today kneeling before three black-clad masked men carrying weapons.
"Since the Turkish company decided to stop sending its trucks to American troops in Iraq, the Tawhid and Jihad has decided to release the two Turkish hostages," one masked man read aloud, clutching a pistol in his right hand.