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Last Updated: Friday, 29 October, 2004, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Boy held hostage in Iraq is freed
Mohammad Abdel Ghani Hamad
Mohammed Hamad enjoys chess and computers, his father said
A seven-year-old Lebanese boy taken hostage in Iraq last week has been released by his captors.

Mohammed Hamad, whose family have lived in Iraq for 30 years, was seized by an unidentified group while on his way to school in Diyala region, eastern Iraq.

The group demanded a $150,000 (80,000) ransom before releasing the boy.

Mohammed's father, Abdel Hamad, told the AFP news agency that the kidnappers eventually lowered their demands and accepted around $2,000 (1,100).

News of the release was also confirmed by the Lebanese foreign ministry in Beirut.

"He was set free at about midday (0900 GMT)," Mr Hamad said, adding that he had personally negotiated with the kidnappers.

He said that Mohammed had lost some weight during his week of captivity, when he was given just "a tomato and some bread" to eat.

Mr Hamad had previously said that the captors had threatened to behead Mohammed if they were not paid $70,000 (38,200) by last Saturday.

Going home

"We are a poor family and we love Iraq," Mr Hamad told the Associated Press.

He described Mohammed as a clever child who enjoyed playing chess and is fascinated by computers.

He refused to say how he received the kidnappers' demands, saying he feared for his son's life.

The family own an orchard and raise chickens, but Mr Hamad said he was planning to return to Lebanon after Mohammed's ordeal.

Around 25 Lebanese nationals, mainly businessmen or company employees, have been kidnapped in Iraq.

One, telecoms employee Hussein Ali Alyan, was killed by his captors on 12 June this year.

Most have been freed upon payment of a ransom.



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