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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October, 2004, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Indonesian hostages arrive home
Megawati Sukarnoputri flanked by former hostages Istiqomah binti Misnad and Casingkem binti Aspin
The appeal by Megawati (centre) was successful
Two Indonesian women freed after being taken hostage in Iraq have credited the outgoing Indonesian president for a part in their release.

The women said their captors had seen Megawati Sukarnoputri appeal for their freedom on television.

Istiqomah binti Misnad and Casingkem binti Aspin arrived in Indonesia on Thursday, three days after being freed.

They said militants in Iraq had beaten and whipped them, until they found out the women were Indonesian Muslims.

"Initially they treated me roughly but after I told them I was Muslim and recited the Koran they treated me kindly," Mrs Istiqomah said.

They said: 'God willing, you will go home soon. We saw your president on TV. We respect her'
Istiqomah binti Misnad
The women, who were working as maids in Iraq, were seized along with two Lebanese and six Iraqis.

It is thought the others are still being held.

"I'm thankful I'm back in Indonesia. In Iraq I was very miserable," 36-year-old Mrs Istiqomah said.

Mrs Casingkem, 22, refused to recount her ordeal.

The pair were reunited with their husbands and parents at the presidential palace in Jakarta, where they also met Mrs Megawati.

Mrs Istiqomah told reporters that the hostage-takers had reacted positively to an appeal by the president broadcast on Arabic TV channel al-Jazeera last Saturday.

Indonesian women hostages on Al-Jazeera TV
TV pictures of the women were released by their captors
"They said: 'God willing you will go home soon. We saw your president on TV. We respect her'," she said.

Mrs Megawati, who lost last month's presidential election but has yet to hand over power, said: "Thanks be to God all those events led to the release of the women."

The kidnappers had demanded that the Indonesian Islamist terror suspect Abu Bakar Ba'asyir be released in exchange for the women.

But the deal was rejected by both the Indonesian government and Ba'asyir, who condemned the kidnappings and said he would not participate in any swap.

Several foreigners are still being held hostage by different groups in Iraq - among them, British engineer Kenneth Bigley.

Two French hostages are being held by the same group that released the women, the Islamic Army of Iraq.




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