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4 Hostages Rescued in Iraq - 2004-06-08

The top American general in Iraq says three Italians and a Polish citizen, who were abducted at different times in the past seven weeks, were freed in a U.S.-led rescue operation south of Baghdad.

The top coalition military commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, told reporters that all of the hostages were freed from the same location and that there was no exchange of gunfire. "The hostages are under coalition forces control and they are in good health. And yes, we did detain some individuals at the site," he said.

General Sanchez did not give details about who the soldiers detained or exactly how the military operation freed the Italian and Polish hostages. But the commander of Polish troops in Iraq says special forces troops from the U.S.-led coalition were involved in the rescue mission.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told Italian state television he expects the three Italians to be flown home on Wednesday.

On April 12, unknown assailants kidnapped four Italians, working for a U.S. security firm, near Baghdad. One of the hostages was executed after Italy refused to bow to demands to withdraw its 2,700 troops from Iraq.

The Polish hostage is a businessman who was kidnapped last week at his company's office in Baghdad. A Polish co-worker was abducted at the same time, but managed to escape.