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Italian Hostage Released In Iraq

An Italian journalist held captive in Iraq for a month was released Friday, a top Italian government official said.

Giuliana Sgrena, who works for the left-wing Il Manifesto newspaper, might be back in Rome later Friday, said Italy's Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Margherita Boniver.

The release "is confirmed 100 percent," Boniver told Sky TG24 television news.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini expressed "great joy and enormous satisfaction," the ANSA news agency said. The Al-Jazeera television network first reported the journalist's release.

Sgrena, 56, was abducted in Baghdad on Feb. 4. Last month, she was shown in a video pleading for her life and demanding that all foreign troops — including Italian forces — leave Iraq.

In other recent developments:

  • Six police officers were killed and 15 wounded in car bomb attacks on Iraq's security services

    Two suicide car bombs exploded outside the Interior Ministry on Thursday in eastern Baghdad, killing at least five policemen and wounding nine, the defense ministry reported.

    Another car bomb targeted a police convoy in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of the capital, and killed one Iraqi policeman and a civilian, the U.S. military said. Six officers and 10 civilians were injured.

  • Attackers shot and killed the police chief of the central Iraqi town of Budayr early Friday, the Polish military said. A woman was also wounded in the attack.
  • The Shiite Muslim-dominated United Iraqi Alliance and a Kurdish coalition, which emerged from the Jan. 30 elections with the two biggest blocks of seats in the National Assembly, made little headway in their talks on combining forces to select the leaders of the new government.

    Meanwhile, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, whose party finished third, denied rumors he had given up his effort to stitch together support from other groups, including the Kurds, that would allow him to remain prime minister.

  • Two former U.S. servicemen working in Iraq for a private security company were killed on Thursday when a roadside bomb struck their convoy near Al Ashraf.
  • A federal grand jury has indicted an Indiana man on charges he tried to sell names of U.S. intelligence operatives in Iraq to Saddam Hussein's government before the U.S. invasion.
  • With U.S. deaths in Iraq topping 1,500, the commanding general of allied troops in Baghdad said he expects casualties will soon decline because of bomb-detecting technology and emboldened Iraqi informants.
  • Violence that has killed hundreds of people the past three weeks led Allawi on Thursday to extend a state of emergency until the end of March. First announced nearly four months ago, the order affects all of Iraq except Kurdish-run areas in the north.

    The emergency decree includes a nighttime curfew and gives the government extra powers to make arrests without warrants and launch police and military operations when it deems necessary.