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Lebanese Hostage Freed After Week in Iraq

August 10, 2004

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A Lebanese businessman was freed Tuesday after about a week in captivity in Iraq, his father said.

Robert Antoun said his son Antoine contacted him from the Iraqi capital, saying he was safe and in good health. He said his son was released Tuesday and would return to Lebanon later in this week.

The younger Antoun, who worked in a dairy factory in Iraq, was snatched by gunmen from a Baghdad street earlier this week.

His father, who spoke to The Associated Press from the family home in the northern Lebanese town of Qoubaiyat, refused to say whether any ransom had been paid.

While some kidnappings in Iraq have been staged by groups with political aims, many more have been purely for financial gain, with wealthy Iraqis as well as foreigners among the victims.

Jordan’s official Petra news agency said Tuesday that a Jordanian businessman had been taken hostage in Baghdad by kidnappers demanding $250,000 in ransom. It said Jamal Sadeq al-Salaymeh, who works as an agent for a Japanese company, was kidnapped by three men Monday from his home on Baghdad’s outskirts.

Antoun’s release came just hours after two other Lebanese hostages were reported freed. The wife of one of them, Nada Sayour, told AP late Monday that she received a call from her husband, truck driver Kassem Murqbawi, saying he was in good condition and would be home in three days.

Murqbawi told her a fellow Lebanese driver who was kidnapped this month was also released. Sayour said he was one of two kidnapped brothers, Taha and Nasser al-Jundi, but it remained unclear which one.

The brothers left Lebanon on Aug. 1 driving trucks loaded with electric generators and were seized some time after they entered Iraq.

Two other brothers, Murqbawi and Khaldoun Othman, who were driving trucks carrying juice, were abducted about the same time.

There was no information on the fate of the Othmans or the second al-Jundi brother.

Hundreds of Lebanese, mainly construction workers and businessmen, have gone to Iraq to look for opportunities in the postwar reconstruction. Several have been kidnapped and released this year, sometimes after the payment of ransom. At least one, Hussein Alyan, was killed.

Update hourly