ARMED Iraqis freed four Jordanian hostages in a raid on their captors’ hideout, one of the released captives said yesterday, while a video from kidnappers said two Turkish hostages had also been released.
The news provided a moment of respite in the hostage crisis confronting Iraq’s interim government, but fighting between police and insurgents in Mosul that killed at least 20 people underscored the scale of the security challenge it faces.
One of the Jordanian hostages said he had been released with three other Jordanian lorry drivers after a group of Iraqis stormed a house in Fallujah late on Tuesday and freed them without firing a shot.
"When the brave people of Fallujah knew that we were held hostage they raided the house and rescued us last night. We are all safe," one of the hostages, Ahmad Hassan Abu Jafaar, said.
The Iraqi rescuers were sent by a council of local elders formed last month to battle crime and kidnapping in Fallujah, where the interim government of the prime minister, Iyad Allawi, in Baghdad exercises only minimal authority.
A group calling itself the Death Squad of Iraqi Resistance said last Thursday it was holding the Jordanians to put pressure on their transport company to stop co-operation with United States forces.
Mr Jafaar said the kidnappers had wanted money. A man wearing a black face mask told reporters in Fallujah that the kidnappers had decided to release the four men because they were supplying traders in Baghdad and they had no proof they were dealing with the US.
The drivers had been carrying shoes and knitting machines imported by an Iraqi firm from the United Arab Emirates.
Insurgents aiming to disrupt supplies to US forces from neighbouring countries have seized dozens of foreign drivers in the past few months, threatening to kill them unless their employers stop operating in Iraq or pay ransoms.
The Jordanians, seized nine days ago, were transferred to a hospital outside Fallujah, where they were waiting to be moved to the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, al-Jazeera television reported that a group linked to the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom Washington accuses of being an al-Qaeda ally, had released two Turkish drivers because their firm agreed to stop working in Iraq.
"Due to the Turkish firm’s decision to stop sending supplies to US forces in Iraq, the Tawhid and Jihad Group has decided to free the two Turkish hostages," said a videotaped statement from the group, broadcast on the Arabic satellite channel.
I heard this on the news today, and it seems to me that the media is just not making as big of a deal out of this as they should be. These were CIVILIANS that took up arms and freed the hostages. The local population organized a group of CIVILIANS, and went up against armed "insurgents". Can anyone explain to me why the media would play down this action? To me it's the first REAL sign of defiance the general population has shown...
Of course, maybe a bunch of locals standing up for themselves without firing a shot isn't as "newsworthy" as 20 people being killed somewhere else...