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Page last updated at 19:09 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 20:09 UK

British journalist freed in Iraq

Richard Butler
Richard Butler's identity had been withheld pending his safe release

A British journalist has been rescued by Iraqi forces after being held hostage for more than two months.

Richard Butler, who works for the US television network CBS, was found in a house in Basra with a sack over his head, said the Iraqi defence ministry.

Mr Butler described how the Iraqi army stormed the house he was in, overcoming his guards and rushing him away.

He and his Iraqi interpreter were seized in Basra in February. The interpreter was freed three days later.

Mr Butler appeared on Iraqi television looking tired but relieved after his release from a house in the Jibiliya neighbourhood of Basra.

They shouted something at me and I pulled my hood off... and they ran me down the road
Richard Butler

He said: "Thank you and I'm looking forward to seeing my family and my friends at CBS - and thank you again.

"The Iraqi army stormed the house and overcame my guards and they burst through the door - and I had my hood on, which I had to have on all the time.

"They shouted something at me and I pulled my hood off... and they ran me down the road."

The troops were fired on by four men - three escaped but the other was captured, the BBC's Crispin Thorold said.

'Unrelated tip-off'

According to a spokesman for the Iraqi ministry of defence, Mr Butler was found with his hands tied behind his back and a hood over his head.

But his rescue was apparently down to a lucky coincidence.

The Iraqi forces launched the raid following an intelligence tip-off that was not about Mr Butler, but about a weapons cache in Basra, our correspondent said.

Iraq map

British officials paid tribute to the "alertness and professionalism" of the Iraq forces.

Mr Butler is now being cared for by British consular staff behind the tight security of Basra airport military base on the city's outskirts.

A CBS News spokeswoman said: "We are incredibly grateful that our colleague, Richard Butler, has been released and is safe."

On 9 February Iraqi police demanded a list of the people staying at the Sultan Palace Hotel in Basra.

Then on 10 February, witnesses said they saw Mr Butler and his interpreter being taken from the hotel by at least eight gunmen.

Later that month, local news reports said that a plan to release Mr Butler had been delayed because his kidnappers feared future arrest.

Mr Butler is a married photojournalist with experience of covering conflicts around the world.

His wife, Helen, was unavailable for comment at their home in France.

Iraq continues to be extremely dangerous for journalists... five years after the start of the war
Reporters Without Borders

International media watchdogs have reported dozens of journalists killed each year since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The organisation Reporters Without Borders, which campaigns for press freedom, released a statement saying it was happy and relieved Richard Butler was free and safe.

"Iraq continues to be extremely dangerous for journalists, including foreign reporters, five years after the start of the war," it said.

"We have not forgotten the 14 journalists of whom there has been no word in the many months since their abduction."


SEE ALSO
British journalist release delay
17 Feb 08 |  Middle East
Abducted Iraqi interpreter 'free'
13 Feb 08 |  Middle East
CBS journalists missing in Iraq
12 Feb 08 |  Middle East


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