Jordanian driver freed, Syrian held

Jordanian truck driver Turki al-Breizat, seized in Iraq and threatened with death, has been released, even as a Syrian truck driver was captured.

    Al-Breizat's employer pledged to stop ferrying supplies in Iraq

    "Jordanian national Turki al-Breizat, who was abducted by an Iraqi group two days ago, was released today," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Amman on Thursday.


    Al-Breizat "is now in the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad".


    "Al-Breizat's release was the fruit of intensive efforts carried out by the Foreign Ministry in coordination with our embassy in Baghdad, and the efforts of the noble residents and elders of Falluja," the spokesman added.


    He did not elaborate.


    The announced release came a day after al-Breizat's Jordanian employer said he halted commercial activity with Iraq in response to an ultimatum issued by the driver's captors.


    Son's reaction


    The captors had earlier said they
    would kill al-Breizat in 48 hours

    Al-Breizat's son Yusuf was elated at the release of his father and told AFP: "This is the most precious moment of my life."


    "I spoke to my father on the telephone. He is at the Jordanian embassy and he told me, 'I am fine. The resistance treated me well, they respected me and they did not harm me'," Yusuf said.


    Asked if a ransom was paid, he said: "The aim (of the capture) was not financial."


    The hitherto unknown Squads of the Unification Lions said in a videotape aired on Aljazeera television on Tuesday that al-Breizat would be killed within 48 hours unless his company pulled out of Iraq.


    Vehicles stopped


    The group accused the Abu al-Shih firm of ferrying supplies to US troops in Iraq.


    Al-Breizat has told his son he had
    not been harmed by his captors

    Company boss Ibrahim al-Zohbi said in a statement released on Wednesday: "I have stopped all vehicles ... and have returned all the tankers (from Iraq) yesterday, Tuesday, in line with the demands of the Squads of the Unification Lions."


    Al-Zohbi said in the statement that his truck company "transports petroleum products to the Iraqi Government or the coalition forces in Iraq".


    Jordanians have been among dozens of foreigners, many of them truck drivers, seized by various groups in Iraq seeking to put pressure on foreign employers or governments to pull out.


    Three Jordanians taken captive along with a Sudanese national were released by their abductors on 6 September.


    Jordan also secured the release of eight of its citizens seized in Iraq in July and August.


    "This is the most precious moment of
    my life"

    Yusuf al-Breizat,
    son of captive

    In some cases a ransom was paid by relatives.


    Syrian seized


    Even as al-Breizat's release was announced, news came in of a Syrian truck driver being seized in northern Iraq.


    The Syrian truck driver in a three-vehicle convoy was seized late on Thursday.


    "It happened near the village of Ismail Awa as the convoy of Syrian drivers, all driving Syrian-registered trucks, drove past," said Colonel Abd al-Frim Khalas.


    Armed men stopped the middle truck and hauled the driver off into their getaway car, Khalas added.


    The convoy was transporting foodstuff from Iraq's northern oil capital of Kirkuk to the city of Mosul, further north.



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