Turk and Egyptian released by captors

Two foreign truck drivers, a Turk and an Egyptian, have been released weeks after they were seized near the flashpoint Iraqi city of Falluja.

    Many foreigners in Iraq have been seized since the war

    Turkish media and the Egyptian government reported on Thursday that Turk, Bulent Yanik, and 35-year-old Victor Tufic Gerges, an Egyptian Coptic Christian, were released together.

    On 2 June, a group of heavily-armed Iraqis threatened to execute the two captives for collaborating with US occupation forces in the country, in a video shown on Arab satellite television stations. But the group then suspended the threat.

    CNN-Turk news channel reported that Yanik and Gerges had been handed over to a team from Turkey's IHA news agency, adding that the reporters had subsequently taken Yanik from Falluja to the Turkish embassy in Baghdad.

    Footage broadcast on CNN-Turk showed a man wearing a black hood and dark sunglasses hand Yanik a Quran which the latter kissed three times before hugging the former.

    Yanik's first phone call was to his family in the small village of Sicanli in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, bordering Syria.

    'I am free'

    "My daughter, how are you?...I am alright. I am coming back, do not worry," CCNN-Turk showed a smiling Yanik telling his daughter on the phone.

    Egypt's Ahmad Mahir said that
    the captives were released

    His wife, Sureyya, was quoted by Anatolia as saying he had phoned her shortly after being released to say: "I am free. Thank God, I am fine. Do not worry about me."

    In Cairo, Egyptian foreign minister Ahmad Mahir confirmed Gerges' release, which had been announced earlier in a news bulletin on state television.

    "The Egyptian hostage was released," Mahir told reporters, adding that he had been informed of the news from Cairo's charge d'affaires in Baghdad.

    "(His) release came after continuous contacts made by Egypt with Iraqi officials and influential members of Iraqi society," said Mahir, stressing that the frantic diplomacy began on the first day that Gerges was seized.

    Gerges' wife, Amal Gad al Rab, said he had telephoned her to say: "I have left Baghdad. I am free and I will contact you when I arrive in Kuwait."

    A wave of seizures pings has swept Iraq since April, when US forces launched an assault on Falluja and Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr mounted a revolt against the US-led occupation in central and southern Iraq.

    Dozens of foreign nationals have since been seized; some of them later released, others executed.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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