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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 May, 2004, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Italy demos 'win hostage safety'
Video of the three hostages shown on al-Arabiya TV
The men were seized on 12 April
Three Italian hostages in Iraq have been saved from harm by street protests in Rome, a militant group has told al-Jazeera TV.

Earlier this week, a group calling itself the Green Brigade threatened to kill the men within five days unless Italians staged demonstrations.

The Arabic TV channel quoted a statement saying that Thursday's protests had satisfied the demand.

A fourth Italian was murdered soon after the group was seized.

There was no immediate confirmation of the authenticity of Saturday's statement.

"They are telling the Italian people that they appreciate how the Italian people went onto the streets and now they are not going to harm the hostages," a spokesman for the Qatar-based channel told Reuters news agency.

Prisoner demand

Al-Jazeera said the statement also called on the Italian government to seek the release of "political prisoners" held in prison in Kurdish areas of Iraq.

References to the statement were later dropped from al-Jazeera bulletins.

The first statement, threatening the hostages with death, was sent to al-Arabiya television station.

The three men, Salvatore Stefio, Umberto Cupertino and Maurizio Agliana were captured on 12 April outside Baghdad, where they were working as security guards for a private US firm.

Their colleague Fabrizio Quattrocchi, 36, was shot on 14 April, and his murder filmed.

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