- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 20, 2004

WARSAW — A Polish woman abducted from her apartment in Baghdad reappeared yesterday in Poland after she was suddenly released. Although she said she was treated well, she refused to give details about how she was freed.

Teresa Borcz Khalifa, kidnapped Oct. 28 at her Baghdad home, arrived in Warsaw on Friday night, Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka said as he introduced her at a hastily convened press conference.

“I feel well, very well, because I am free,” said Mrs. Borcz Khalifa, 54, smiling but looking tired. “I can’t really speak of some action to recapture me. It sounds like something out of a gangster film.”

She was released only days after officials said they thought that another female hostage, Briton Margaret Hassan, had been killed by her captors. More than 170 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq this year, eight of them women. At least 34 hostages have been killed.

Both Mrs. Borcz Khalifa and Mrs. Hassan are married to Iraqi men and hold dual citizenships.

In early November, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said he asked President Bush for help in freeing Mrs. Borcz Khalifa. Polish officials would not say what kind of help Mr. Kwasniewski had in mind, but U.S. troops freed another Polish hostage and three Italians in a raid in June.

Yesterday, Mr. Belka also refused to say when, where or how Mrs. Borcz Khalifa was freed, but said that “officials of different services took part in her release in cooperation with institutions from many countries.”

Mrs. Borcz Khalifa said: “I don’t even know how it really took place.”

“During all these actions, I had a black scarf over my eyes, and I was dressed in the clothes of a Muslim woman, so it’s difficult to comment because I did not know what was happening outside.”

“I can’t give you any details about the circumstances of this event [her release] for two reasons,” Mr. Belka said. “First, because of security concerns for our people … and also because our partners expressed a firm wish not to reveal any details of the release operation.”

Mrs. Borcz Khalifa recalled that she was kidnapped in the early evening, “at the door of my house.”

“The abduction was very quick. It was very well-organized,” she said.

Still, she would give no details about her captors or say where she was held and was evasive when asked how long ago she was released. She said she was treated “properly” by her captors.

During her captivity, Al Jazeera television aired two videos of the hostage asking Poland to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Polish leaders repeatedly ruled out a troop withdrawal. Poland commands a security force of about 6,000 troops from 15 nations, including about 2,400 Poles, in central Iraq.

Mrs. Borcz Khalifa, who has lived in Iraq since the 1970s and holds dual Polish and Iraqi citizenships, said she didn’t try to escape.

“It was organized in such a way that there was no such a possibility, but I did hope it would all finish,” she said. “My hope was in the decent treatment I was getting, as they said their treatment of me was motivated by their religious beliefs.”

“I preferred to wait patiently,” she added.

Mrs. Borcz Khalifa studied Slavic languages at the prestigious Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and worked as a teacher before following her Iraqi husband to Baghdad, said her mother, Halina Borcz.

She worked for some time in the 1990s at the Polish Embassy, using her job there to help Iraqis get entry visas for Poland. Yesterday, she said she would stay in Poland “for the time being.”

Mrs. Borcz, who lives in Krakow, said she learned of her daughter’s release only yesterday.

“No one called me,” said Mrs. Borcz, 72. “A gentleman from the government came and asked me to come with him to the ministry, and I did. It was a surprise.”

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