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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Iraq captors free Turk hostages
A still from al-Jazeera of gunmen and their apparent captives
The three apparently promised to stop working for pro-US interests
Three Turkish men held hostage in Iraq have been released by the militants holding them.

Their captors, led by Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had earlier threatened to behead them.

They said the men were freed for the sake of Muslims in Turkey and following protests against the US president.

A visit by President George W Bush to Turkey for a Nato summit saw Turkish demonstrators to take to the streets to protest against his policies in Iraq.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul confirmed their release.

"Our citizens have been released," he told state television. "We've struggled a lot for their release."

Meanwhile, a US soldier held hostage in Iraq has reportedly been executed.

A video claiming to show Private Keith Maupin kneeling before a grave minutes before his death was released on Monday, hours after the US handed power over to an interim Iraqi government two days earlier than scheduled.


A video aired by Arabic TV station al-Jazeera showed the three Turkish men kneeling as a statement was read out by a masked gunman claiming to be from the Tawhid and Jihad movement, believed to be headed by Zarqawi.

"Tawhid and Jihad announces the release of the Turkish hostages for the sake of Muslims in Turkey and their demonstrations against Bush," he said.

The hostages were released after "they pledged not to support the non-believers again", he added.

The three men have been named by Turkish media as Mustafa Bal, Mehmet Bakir and Abdulselam Bakir.

They are believed to be from the Kurdish-dominated zone of south-eastern Turkey and were accused of working as contractors for the US occupation.

Second group

Reports say another group of Turkish hostages could also be released soon, after the company they were working for, Kayteks, agreed to the kidnappers' call for them to stop working for the US military in Iraq.

Correspondents say Iraqi kidnappers are trying to deflect criticism from Muslim countries by sparing those of the same faith wherever possible.

But they have threatened to behead Corp Wassef Ali Hassoun, a US marine of Lebanese origin, who went missing in Iraq on 21 June, if Iraqi prisoners are not released.

Anti-coalition militants have also threatened to kill a captured Pakistani driver, Amjad Hafeez.


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