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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December, 2004, 16:59 GMT
S Asian hostages in Iraq 'freed'
Dinesh Dharmendran Rajaratnam's family
Dinesh Dharmendran Rajaratnam's family with his photograph
Two drivers, a Bangladeshi and a Sri Lankan, held hostage for more than a month in Iraq have been freed, reports from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka say.

Abul Kashem 42, and Sri Lankan driver Dinesh Dharmendran Rajaratnam, 36, were captured on 28 October as they ferried supplies from Kuwait.

The two men have been handed over to Sri Lankan diplomats in Baghdad.

Both men were working in Iraq for a Kuwaiti transport firm when they were taken hostage.

Banned

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shamsher M Chowdhury told the Reuters agency: "Truck driver Abul Kashem has been released and he is now in the custody of Iraqi authorities."

State Minister for Overseas Employment Mohammad Quamrul Islam told AFP: "Our embassy in Kuwait informs us that both men are free and unhurt and are under the protection of the Iraqi government."

The Al Jazeera television network had broadcast footage of the pair, saying they were being held by a group called the Islamic Army.

The group is also thought to be holding two French journalists and to have executed an Italian reporter.

Mr Kashem is the first Bangladeshi to be taken hostage in Iraq. Dhaka has banned workers from travelling there because of security concerns.

His kidnapping caused surprise in Bangladesh as Dhaka had resisted pressure to send troops to Iraq.

In September, three Indian truck drivers, who were held along with an Egyptian and three Kenyan hostages, were freed by their Iraqi captors after spending 42 days in captivity.


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