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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 01:44 GMT
Freed Iraq hostage 'fled captors'
Video from Iraq purported to show Frenchman Bernard Planche
Mr Planche's family appealed for his release in late December
A French engineer held hostage in Iraq since December managed to escape from where he had been held by his Iraqi captors, it has emerged.

Bernard Planche, 52, climbed through the window of a farmhouse to make contact with US units searching for him west of Baghdad on Saturday.

He stayed at the scene with troops to search for his captors.

Mr Planche, who was working for a small charity in Iraq, was kidnapped from his home in Baghdad by gunmen in December.

'Hands in the air'

"When he realised he was alone and saw US forces in the distance, he escaped through a window and ran down the road," US Major Jim Crawford said.

"He had his hands in the air and, as he approached the US checkpoint, he took his shirt off to show he had no explosives on him."

He stayed near the house where he had been held captive for six hours as US and Iraqi soldiers searched for those who had taken him hostage.

"He gave us information. He was able to recall all kinds of details," Major Crawford said.

Video shown

The major said caches of arms had been discovered following the US operation, but did not say if anyone had been arrested.

Iraqi security sources had earlier said Mr Planche had escaped from a car after his captors panicked near a military checkpoint.

Mr Planche told his rescuers that during his captivity he had been threatened but not physically abused, it is reported. He said he suffered a broken nose when he was abducted.

A video had been issued by a previously unknown militant group showing Mr Planche with a gun to his head.

His family made appeals for his release on Arabic satellite television, saying he was in Iraq only to help its reconstruction and its people.

He was working as a water treatment engineer in the country.

Insurgents have kidnapped hundreds of foreigners over the past two years.



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