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Confusion Over Fate of Kidnapped Westerners in Iraq

  • VOA News

There are conflicting reports out of Iraq about the fate of five Western security contractors who were kidnapped Thursday.

Iraqi officials earlier on Friday said one hostage was found dead, while two others were freed in a police operation in southern Iraq.

But a Basra police official Major General Ali al-Moussawi told the Associated Press that none of the hostages had been freed and that the official who announced the release was talking about a different hostage situation.

Gunmen seized the contractors -- one Austrian and four Americans -- Thursday from a convoy near the southern city of Basra.

Meanwhile, a leading Sunni Muslim cleric says a warrant for his arrest issued by the Iraqi government is illegal. Speaking from Amman, Jordan, Friday, Harith al-Dari said he would return to Iraq at what he called an "appropriate time." He is accused of supporting terrorism.

In other news, the US military says an American soldier was killed Thursday during combat operations in the northern Diyala province.

The US Defense Department today also announced that 57-thousand American troops are to begin deploying to Iraq early next year to replace troops that are scheduled to end their tours.

The units identified for deployment include five combat brigades.

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