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Kenya Says Truck Drivers Freed in Iraq

August 1, 2004

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Seven truck drivers taken hostage in Iraq have been released, a Kenyan government spokesman said Sunday.

The hostages, held captive for the past 10 days, have been taken to the Egyptian Embassy in Baghdad and the three Kenyans among them are in good health, government spokesman Alfred Mutua said. The captives also included three Indians and an Egyptian.

The men’s Kuwaiti employers had been negotiating with mediators for their release, but there was no immediate word if the company, Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Co., had met the kidnappers’ demands.

The kidnappers, calling themselves ``The Holders of the Black Banners,″ initially threatened to kill them men unless the company withdrew from Iraq. They later demanded reparations for the people of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, and said they wanted all Iraqi prisoners held in Kuwait and by U.S. forces to be released.

The kidnappers repeatedly extended deadlines set for killing the hostages.

Relatives of the Kenyan men had said earlier Sunday they had received a report from a senior Kenyan Foreign Ministry official that negotiations for the drivers’ release were in their final phase.

``We hope that it would happen, we pray to God that it happens,″ said Khamis Salum, the brother of hostage Salim Faiz Khamis, said by telephone from city of Mombasa before the release was announced.

``We have been living in fear for the lives of our brothers since they were taken hostage,″ said Faiz Khamis, the younger brother of hostage Ibrahim Khamis. ``We have gone through the motions of living our lives, but our hearts have been half dead.″

Militants in Iraq have kidnapped more than 70 foreigners in recent months in an effort to push countries out of the U.S.-led coalition that invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam more than a year ago.

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