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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Pakistani hostage freed in Iraq
Pakistani man held by Iraq militants
Footage from the video of Mr Hafeez in captivity
A Pakistani man held hostage by militants in Iraq has been freed, Pakistani officials and members of his family say.

Amjad Hafeez was abducted north of Baghdad last week. His kidnappers had threatened to behead him unless local detainees were freed from prison.

"Amjad Hafeez phoned us from Iraq today and told us that he has been released unharmed," his uncle Abdul Razzaq said.

Leading Pakistanis had urged the kidnappers to free the fellow Muslim.

Only bread-winner

Mr Hafeez's kidnappers had said they would decapitate him unless their demands were met by Wednesday this week.

Last month a South Korean man was beheaded in Iraq and a similar fate befell an American citizen in May.

The prayers of fellow Muslims and efforts by the government have borne fruit and we are all extremely happy
Abdul Razzaq , uncle

Reports this week from al-Jazeera television say captured US marine Keith Maupin, 20, has been shot dead, although this has not been confirmed.

The BBC's Paul Anderson in Islamabad says Pakistanis were stunned that one of their nationals could become a hostage and be threatened with decapitation.

Mr Hafeez is the only bread-winner for the poverty-stricken family from Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Mr Hafeez's mother, Saeeda Jan, who appeared on TV around the world two days ago tearfully pleading for her eldest son's life, was overjoyed at his release.

"He is well and I am thankful to God Almighty and all those who helped me to secure the release of my son. I am also thankful to those who freed him," she said.

Politicians including Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had joined the family's appeal for his release.

On Friday, the president told the private Geo television channel: "I congratulate the entire nation on the release of Hafeez... those people who kidnap people like this are not serving the cause of Islam. Such things are against religion and Islam."

Video appeal

Mr Hafeez is a Kuwait-based driver working for an American company in Iraq.

Family of Amjad Hafeez in Pakistan-administered Kashmir
Mr Hafeez's family in Pakistan had pleaded for his release

Pakistan's charge d'affaires in Baghdad, Iftikhar Anjum, said earlier this week that he and his officials were in touch with various Islamic groups in Iraq to work for his release.

Mr Hafeez was ferrying food supplies when he was kidnapped in an attack on an American base north of Baghdad.

He surfaced in a video broadcast on Sunday, showing him with militants.

In the video, Mr Hafeez appealed to President Musharraf to close down the Pakistani embassy in Iraq and repatriate all Pakistanis in the country.

But the foreign ministry issued an emphatic rejection - Pakistan would not accede to the demands of any hostage takers, a statement said, and it condemned all forms of terrorism.

Pakistan has no troops in Iraq.

However, the authorities are considering American and British requests to send forces.

They say they will consider it only if they are part of a multinational force to protect United Nations staff.


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