- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 4, 2004

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Fed up with rampant crime and kidnappings, a tribal chief in the turbulent city of Fallujah sent a group of vigilantes on a raid that freed four Jordanian hostages.

Separate video from kidnappers that was aired on Al Jazeera television said two Turkish hostages also had been released.

The news provided a moment of respite in the hostage crisis confronting Iraq’s government, but fierce fighting between police and insurgents in Mosul underscored the scale of the security challenge it faces.

“When the brave people of Fallujah knew that we were held hostage, they raided the house and rescued us last night. We are all safe,” one of the hostages, Ahmad Hassan Abu Jafaar, told Reuters news agency yesterday. “We’re expecting to go back to Jordan today.”

The raid to free the four Jordanians was carried out after Sheik Haj Ibrahim Jassam received word Tuesday that the captives were in a house on the edge of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, the sheik said. About 100 armed members of Sheik Jassam’s tribe raided the house, and the five kidnappers inside fled.

“I called upon my brothers and tribesmen to free the hostages, so we raided the house last night,” Sheik Jassam told the Associated Press. “I’m glad that those innocent Muslims were freed.”

The men were abducted by a group calling itself “Mujahideen of Iraq, the Group of Death.” On July 27, Dubai Television broadcast a video showing four men holding what appeared to be Jordanian identification cards.

The drivers had been carrying shoes and knitting machines imported by an Iraqi firm from the United Arab Emirates.

The Iraqi rescuers were sent by a council of local elders formed last month to battle crime and kidnapping in Fallujah, where the government has only minimal authority.

Insurgents aiming to disrupt supplies delivered to U.S. forces from neighboring countries have seized dozens of foreigners in the past few months, threatening to kill them unless their employers stop operating in Iraq or pay ransoms.

Private companies have cut deals, and Spain and the Philippines have pulled their soldiers out of Iraq.

The United States yesterday issued the first in a series of coordinated statements by nations vowing not to make concessions to hostage-takers in Iraq.

“We’re committed to making sure that the perpetrators of terrorist acts against our citizens and soldiers are brought to justice,” it said. “We understand that conceding to terrorists will only endanger all members of the multinational force, as well as other countries who are contributing to Iraqi reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.”

Many if not all of the 30 other nations involved in the postwar campaign will issue similar statements in the days ahead, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Mr. Boucher said Bulgaria, a coalition member, came up with the idea. Kazakhstan issued a similar statement on Tuesday, he said.

Al Jazeera television said a group linked to Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi — who Washington accuses of being an al Qaeda ally — had released two Turkish drivers because their firm agreed to stop delivering supplies to coalition troops.

“Due to the Turkish firm’s decision to stop sending supplies to U.S. forces in Iraq, the Tawhid and Jihad Group has decided to free the two Turkish hostages,” said a videotaped statement from the group broadcast on the Arabic satellite channel.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul confirmed the release. “This good news has made us happy,” he said.

Two haulage firms on Sunday said they were prepared to suspend operations in Iraq after the two Turkish drivers were seized. The militants had threatened to behead the pair.

The Kuwaiti employer of seven seized drivers — three Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian — called on the kidnappers to resume talks with another tribal leader, Sheik Hisham al-Dulaymi.

In the northern city of Mosul, fierce street fighting broke out after insurgents armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades launched a series of coordinated attacks on Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops.

The U.S. military said eight insurgents were killed during nearly three hours of clashes, but more than 14 civilians had also been killed and 31 wounded.

Guerrillas fired a rocket at a police station and attacked a police patrol, before launching attacks on the Mosul Power Plant and a hospital in the city, the U.S. Army said.

U.S. troops said they helped support Iraqi security forces during the fighting, saying no Iraqi police or U.S. soldiers were killed. The clashes had died down by late afternoon.

Police enforced a curfew imposed by the governor starting at 3 p.m. in the city, which has witnessed frequent outbreaks of violence in the past year.

Earlier, hospital staff said an Iraqi man and a woman were killed and two persons were wounded in a roadside bomb blast aimed at a convoy of U.S. armored vehicles in the city.

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