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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 15:19 GMT
Iraqi hostages found in Falluja
US soldier with Iraqi hostage
One of the hostages (right) said he was a taxi driver
US-led troops involved in fighting against insurgents in the Iraqi city of Falluja have found four imprisoned men believed to be Iraqi hostages.

Three of them were contractors working for the US military, a US marines spokesman said, and the fourth said he was a taxi driver.

All of the men had been beaten and starved and were wearing handcuffs.

A US marines spokesman said the three Iraqi contractors, who worked on a US military base, were captured last week.

The men were found blindfolded, in a locked room in a house just outside Falluja.

Six suspected militants were detained in the raid.

Map of Iraq
Up to 15,000 US and Iraqi troops involved
Estimated 3,000 Iraqi insurgent and foreign fighters in city
Estimated 50,000 civilians remain out of usual population of some 300,000

In the same building, US troops found surface-to-air missiles, night-vision equipment, black uniforms, computers and a weapons cache.

They also retrieved what they called anti-coalition propaganda and videotapes showing torture of hostages and weapons training.

Inside the city itself, marines freed a fourth hostage, an Iraqi taxi driver who said he had been held for 10 days.

He did not work with Americans and said he did not know why he was kidnapped.

He said the men holding him beat him repeatedly, and he had scars on his wrists and feet where he had been handcuffed.

The BBC's Jennifer Glasse, at US marines' headquarters outside Falluja, said this was the first concrete proof that insurgents had bases in the area.

Falluja is believed to have been an operating base for a ruthless group of kidnappers led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Nine foreign hostages and an unknown number of Iraqi hostages remain unaccounted for in Iraq.

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