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Family Celebrates Release of British Businessman Kidnapped in Iraq - 2004-04-12

A British family is rejoicing that one of their members, kidnapped by Iraqi militiamen, has been safely freed.

They are planning a big welcome home party at the home of Gary Teeley, a 37-year-old British businessman who was held captive in Iraq for nearly a week.

Mr. Teeley had been a captive of the Medhi Army, a militia group of the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Relatives say he had gone to the southern city of Nasiryah to fill in for a business colleague who was on vacation. Mr. Teeley was a consultant for a Qatari-based laundry firm.

Italian troops freed Mr. Teeley on Sunday in an operation that officers said combined both attacks and negotiations.

Mr. Teeley's mother, Patricia Teeley, told British television Monday she had spoken by telephone to her son at a coalition hospital, and he says he's lucky to be alive.

"We only spoke for about two or three minutes," she said. "But he really didn't want to say too much at this point. I suppose he'll tell me more when he comes home. But when he was first taken, he was in the house on his own, I understand, and the militia took the house over. And there was fighting from the Italian coalition and the militia. And at that point he did think he was going to die."

She described the past week as harrowing, and said she was constantly worried about whether her son had been wounded or killed.

Now, she says, she can't wait for him to come home.

"He'll have a big hug," said Ms. Teeley. "I'll probably wallop him for going out there. Obviously I'll be ecstatic to see him, and love him and when things settle down we'll have a party for him. It was his birthday last Thursday so we'll have a big family party for him."

But while the Teeley family plans their reunion, relatives of a number of other foreigners kidnapped in Iraq await news of their loved ones. Patricia Teeley advises them to pray, think positively and not give up hope.