Iraq: Six women prisoners to be freed

An Iraqi government official said Iraq has recommended that US authorities release six of the eight Iraqi females in military custody, adding that it was not part of a bid to free a kidnapped American journalist.

    The US military did not confirm the releases would take place

    The kidnappers of Jill Carroll, 28, have threatened to kill her unless all Iraqi women detainees are freed.

    The US military said eight Iraqi women are in military detention and a government commission reviewing cases of Iraqi detainees recommended to US authorities on Monday that six be released.

    An official from the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry, which sits on the commission, said on Thursday the call to free the women was not made in response to demands from Carroll's kidnappers.

    "There was no outside pressure on the commission" to release the women, said the official who declined to be identified further because he feared reprisal from fighters.

    Aljazeera video

    US officials have refused to comment on whether any of the women are set to be released.

    Earlier, the Iraqi Justice Ministry said that US forces would release six Iraqi women prisoners but that the move was not related to the demands of Carroll's kidnappers.

    Carroll was kidnapped from a
    Baghdad street on 7 January

    Aljazeere aired a brief video on Tuesday night showing the freelance journalist working for the Christian Science Monitor.

    The group said it would kill her if the women detainees were not released in 72 hours.

    The video was the first glimpse of Carroll since armed men kidnapped her in a Baghdad street on 7 January and killed her translator.

    In other news, US and Iraqi forces were searching the desert north of Baghdad on Thursday for 35 Iraqi police volunteers kidnapped by fighters as they travelled home by bus, US and Iraqi officials said.

    The missing men were part of a group of 229 from Samarra, 125km north of the capital, who had gone to Baghdad to join the police force, Samarra police chief general Malik al-Khezraji told AFP.

    Hold-up

    Thirty-six men, who failed to meet recruitment standards, were returning home by bus on Monday evening when they were held up by the fighters, he said.

    "Eight cars and minibuses loaded with dozens of gunmen held up the bus and took the men into the desert," the general said, quoting one man who was shot and injured as he escaped and who arrived home on Wednesday.

    Iraqi police recruits are a
    frequent target of killings

    Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Wellman, a US military spokesman, said the men had decided to return home by commercial bus, adding that the bus was diverted off the main highway because of roadblocks put up on Monday around Mishahda after a US Apache attack helicopter was shot down with the loss of its two-man crew.

    "They were then stopped by insurgents who boarded the bus and discovered some were would-be police recruits," Wellman said.

    Other passengers were taken off the bus and the fighters then drove away with the police volunteers in the bus, he added.

    The incident took place in an industrial area, near Taji, some 30km north of the capital, he said.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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