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Troops in Iraq Free 3 Western Hostages, Operation Swarmer Ends


Multinational troops in Iraq have freed three Western peace activists who were kidnapped in November.

The hostages - one Briton, Norman Kember and two Canadians, James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden - were freed during an operation Thursday that included British and American forces. No shots were fired during the raid and the kidnappers were not present.

U.S. Army Major General Rick Lynch, speaking in Baghdad, said the hostages were found in the western part of the city after two Iraqi men were detained late Wednesday. One of the detainees revealed the location of the hostages.

Also today, the U.S. military announced the end of Operation Swarmer north of Baghdad near Samarra. During the week-long operation, coalition forces said they detained more than 100 suspected insurgents.

Meanwhile, a car bomb in central Baghdad killed at least 25 people, most of them policemen. At least nine other Iraqis died Thursday in gun violence and bombings in the capital.

A little known group, the Swords of Righteousness Brigades had claimed responsibility for kidnapping the activists, members of the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams. A fourth man kidnapped at the same time, American, Tom Fox, was found shot to death earlier this month.

At a news conference, the peace group's co-director Doug Pritchard said he is glad the men are free. But he blamed the current insecurity in Iraq on the country's occupation by foreign forces.

American journalist Jill Carroll, kidnapped in January, is still missing.

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