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Iraq Says Almost Half of Kidnapped Factory Workers Have Been Freed


Iraqi officials say at least 30 out of 64 factory workers that gunmen seized on Wednesday have been freed.

Security authorities say the released hostages include women and Sunni Muslims. Two hostages were killed trying escape. It is not clear what has happened to the remaining hostages. They are believed to be Shi'ites.

Iraqi cabinet minister Fowzi Hariri spoke about the hostages on television Thursday. He put the number of people initially kidnapped at 64. The incident took place at an industrial complex in Taji, north of Baghdad.

In other news, the U.S. military in Iraq said insurgents killed five U.S. service members in attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In another development, the chief lawyer for Saddam Hussein Khalil al-Dulaimi says Saddam and several other defendants are on a hunger strike to protest the lack of security for their defense lawyers.

On Wednesday, gunmen killed a top member of Saddam's legal team, Khamis al-Obaidi.

A U.S. State Department spokesman condemned the murder, but he said the lawyer had turned down American offers of protection.

Meanwhile, Russia has been calling on Iraqi insurgents to spare the lives of four Russian embassy workers kidnapped in Baghdad earlier this month.

The insurgent Mujahideen Shura Council said on Wednesday it would kill the hostages because Russia has not withdrawn from Chechnya.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, and AP.

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