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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 07:14 GMT
Macedonian hostages freed in Iraq
British soldiers in Iraq
The Macedonian workers were working at a coalition base
Two Macedonian contractors kidnapped in the British-controlled area of southern Iraq have been released.

The two men, who work for a cleaning contractor, were abducted from their vehicle near Basra.

They were released on Monday morning, although there were no details given of the circumstances of their release.

Their company, Ecolog, had received a $1m ransom demand after they were seized while travelling from work at the UK's Shaibah military base.

The seizing of the Macedonians came days after UK forces launched an investigation following the brief capture of three Iraqis working at the base.

That incident was thought to be the first time people working for coalition forces in the area around Basra were directly targeted.

Macedonia has a small number of troops stationed in Iraq, but at least 1,000 of its nationals, including ethnic Albanians, are also in the country working privately.

Civilian contractors working for coalition forces in central and northern Iraq have been targeted regularly by kidnappers and insurgents.

Hundreds of foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been seized across Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Most have been freed largely unharmed, but several dozen have been killed, and others remain in captivity.



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