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Hostages Freed in Kyrgyzstan

October 25, 1999

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) _ Four Japanese geologists and their translator were released Monday after two months of captivity, officials said.

The freed hostages, reportedly in good health, were flown from Tajikistan to Kant, located outside the capital of Bishkek, said Kyrgyz presidential spokesman Kanybek Imanaliyev, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi thanked the Kyrgyz government for the release.

``I’m very relieved the hostages came back in good health,″ Obuchi said. ``I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the (Kyrgyz) president for the leadership and efforts that led to this outcome.″

Japanese officials had said earlier Monday that no ransom was paid for the four geologists, but Japan’s Kyodo news agency, citing unidentified sources, said that $2million may have been paid.

The Japanese, identified as Nobuhisa Nakajima, 49, Hirotaro Fujii, 47, Haruo Harada, 38, and Toshiaki Ariie, 58, work for Japan’s Mineral Mining Agency.

They were part of a group of 13 hostages seized by Tajik militants who invaded Kyrgyzstan in August. The aims of the militants were never clear, but Kyrgyzstan officials said the fighters wanted to establish an Islamic state on territory now belonging to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The five were the last of the hostages to be released, Imanaliyev said.

Update hourly