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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 June, 2004, 23:46 GMT 00:46 UK
Special forces free Iraq hostages
Italian hostages
The three men were shown on video on 31 May
Three Italians kidnapped in Iraq almost two months ago have been rescued in a mission by military special forces.

A Polish man abducted a week ago was also released. All four men are said to be in good health.

The Italians were captured on 12 April with a compatriot, Fabrizio Quattrocchi - whose killing was videotaped by his captors.

Meanwhile the Turkish embassy in Iraq says insurgents have freed one of two Turks kidnapped earlier this week.

I can only tell you my joy is immense
Francesco Cupertino
Brother of hostage
The two executives were seized with their Iraqi driver near the town of Falluja, a centre of Sunni resistance to the US-led occupation.

In a separate development, the Associated Press news agency said masked gunmen had shown its reporters seven Turkish hostages whom they said had been captured because they worked for the Americans.

Three of the hostages were shown on videotape crouched on the floor holding passports open to the photo page. Another four were shown to reporters separately, AP said.

Turkish hostages
Three captured Turkish men were shown on a tape
"We urge the Muslim Turkish people...to stand by the side of their Iraqi, Muslim brothers in their crisis by refusing to work with the occupation forces," one of the masked men said on the tape.

The statement threatened more attacks on companies working with the coalition.

A Turkish truck-driver and his Egyptian colleague were taken hostage in Iraq last week.

'No bloodshed'

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the release of the Italian hostages was a "happy conclusion".

"I cannot but be happy because we have carried out the right choice and we have chosen the right strategy - on one side utmost secrecy and on the other no negotiation with the terrorists," he said.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the hostages were released in a joint operation in southern Baghdad by Italian and other forces using "detailed intelligence".

There was no bloodshed, and the former hostages were on their way to the airport to be flown back to Italy on Wednesday, he added.

The US military commander in Iraq, Ricardo Sanchez, said some of the kidnappers had been captured.

A brother of one of the men said he was "overjoyed" at the news.

"I have to say thank you, thank you, thank you. I can only tell you my joy is immense," Francesco Cupertino told Italian TV.

The three Italians - Salvatore Stefio, Umberto Cupertino and Maurizio Agliana - had all been working as private security guards for a US firm.


They were last seen on a tape dated 31 May and shown on 2 June.

An Iraqi armed group calling itself the Green Brigade has said it was behind the abductions.

The group had demanded the withdrawal of the 3,000-strong Italian contingent from Iraq - something Mr Berlusconi and the parliament rejected.

They also threatened to kill the hostages if the Italian people failed to demonstrate against the occupation of Iraq.

An alleged statement by the group read out on Arabic TV on 1 May said that demand had been satisfied and the hostages would not now be harmed.

The Polish man, contractor Jerzy Kos, was kidnapped with a colleague on 1 June outside their offices near Baghdad, but the other man escaped almost immediately.

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