US finds driver kidnapped with French reporters

12th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

BAGHDAD, Nov 12 (AFP) - US marines have found alive in the restive Iraqi city of Fallujah the Syrian driver who was taken hostage with two French journalists almost three months ago, a military spokeswoman said on Friday.

BAGHDAD, Nov 12 (AFP) - US marines have found alive in the restive Iraqi city of Fallujah the Syrian driver who was taken hostage with two French journalists almost three months ago, a military spokeswoman said on Friday.

They also blew up a hostage "slaughterhouse" where masked militants had filmed foreign and Iraqi victims begging for their life or having their heads chopped off - images that are often broadcast on Arabic television.

"Marines located the driver of the two French reporters," the spokeswoman said, referring to Mohammed al-Jundi.

But she was unable to say when he was found and had no information on the fate of French reporters Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale and Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro newspaper.

The French foreign ministry also said it had no news on the hostages' whereabouts following the discovery of their driver.

"We have no new precise information, but our teams in Baghdad are in contact with American counterparts and we continue all our efforts to obtain the hostages freedom," said spokesman Herve Ladsous.

The three were abducted on August 20 south of Baghdad by a group calling itself the Islamic Army of Iraq, which is believed to be mainly based in Fallujah, where US-led troops are engaged in a massive offensive to retake the city from rebels.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Sunday his government knew that the hostages were "still alive a few days ago," after a botched attempt in September to rescue them.

Hopes they would be released have been dashed several times, most notably when French lawmaker Didier Julia announced at the end of last month that their liberation was imminent.

In a grim reminder of how Fallujah earnt its reputation as a rebel enclave, Major General Abdul Qader Mohan, chief spokesman for a joint military assault in Fallujah, said Wednesday that a number of hostage "slaughterhouses" had been uncovered along with lists of names.

Marines told AFP that they blew up one of the houses on Thursday where much of the butchering took place.

In the house they found grisly videos of captives, a camera and a black flag, which is often draped in the background of the hostage in pictures broadcast on television or published over the Internet.

More than 200 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since April by different militant groups and many have been beheaded.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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