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Six Hostages Freed in Iraq - 2004-08-04

Six foreign hostages have been freed in Iraq. The men are Jordanian and Turkish truck drivers who were being held by separate groups of kidnappers.

The two Turkish and four Jordanian hostages were abducted separately by different groups. The timing of their release appears to be a coincidence.

The four Jordanian hostages were kidnapped a little more than a week ago near the town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad. A local leader told western news agencies that the kidnappers were "criminals" from outside Fallujah, and had nothing to do with the insurgency that has made the town a notorious trouble spot for coalition troops. He says a group of prominent locals found out where the Jordanians were being held, went to the house and released them.

The Jordanians were apparently freed late Tuesday and then spent the night at the home of a local elder.

The other hostages reported released Wednesday were two Turkish truck drivers. The al Jazeera satellite TV network reported that a group known as Tawhid and Jihad said it freed the men after their transport companies agreed to stop working in Iraq. Tawhid and Jihad is allegedly led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who U.S. intelligence services believe has ties to Al Qaida.

There has been no further word on the Turkish hostages' whereabouts, and no confirmation of their release.

The Turkish drivers, like many other recent kidnap victims, had been carrying goods destined for the U.S. military in Iraq. But the Jordanian truck drivers were carrying equipment bound for Iraqi companies when they were abducted.

It has been common for kidnappers to demand that companies stop doing business in Iraq in exchange for their abducted employees' lives. Some have also asked for money. It has also become common for Iraqi businessmen to be kidnapped and held for ransom. Iraqi officials say it is not unusual for kidnappers to sell their hostages to other groups, which may then issue their own financial or political demands.

A spokesman for the interior ministry, Sabah Kadhim, says the main motive behind most of the abductions is financial, not political.

"They want money, and they will use any pretext, political, whatever. In reality they are interested in securing how much money they can receive," he said.

More than 70 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq over the last few months, and it is believed that at least nine of them have been killed. On Monday, the Tawhid and Jihad militant group claimed to have killed another Turkish hostage. The group posted a videotape on the internet, showing masked insurgents appearing to shoot the man in the head several times.