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Kidnapped CBS Journalist Freed In Iraq

Iraqi troops rescued a British journalist for CBS News in the southern city of Basra on Monday two months after he was kidnapped, the Iraqi military said.

The dramatic rescue came on a day in which at least 37 people were killed or found dead nationwide.

Richard Butler was in good condition when he was found with a sack over his head and his hands tied inside a house, Lt. Gen. Mohan al-Fireji said. The discovery came during an Iraqi military sweep in the Jibiliya area, a Shiite militia stronghold in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Butler was working as a producer for 60 Minutes when he was taken by gunmen, along with his Iraqi translator, from the Sultan Palace Hotel early on the morning of Feb. 10, 2008.

The translator was released several weeks ago.

CBS had refrained from releasing the men's identities or details surrounding their disappearance pending their safe release.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer says tension started to build quickly after the translator's release, as Butler remained missing and violence in Basra intensified.

Defense ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said that an army patrol conducting a search came under fire from the house where Butler was being held. One of the gunmen was wounded in an exchange of fire and another captured while two men escaped, he said.

Butler was later shown on Iraqi state television laughing and greeting his rescuers.

"Thank you and I'm looking forward to seeing my family and my friends at CBS and thank you again," Butler told al-Askari.

He described the soldiers' performance as "brilliant."

"The Iraqi army stormed the house and overcame my guards and they burst through the door," Butler said. "I had my hood on, which I had to have on all the time, and they shouted something at me, and I pulled my hood off."

In London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband welcomed Butler's release and said he was "very grateful to (Iraqi) security forces for the professionalism of the task they have undertaken."

He said Butler was in the care of the British consulate in Basra.

In New York, CBS News spokeswoman Sandy Genelius said the network was "incredibly grateful that our colleague ... has been released and is safe."

In recent days, Iraqi forces have started house-to-house sweeps for arms, weapons, drugs and criminal elements in several parts of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city. The military said it has uncovered an improvised explosive device factory, along with significant arms caches and numerous roadside bombs, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Serious fighting in Basra has abated since a failed government offensive last month to dislodge militia groups. But sporadic violence has continued.

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