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Turkish Hostage Freed In Iraq

A Turkish man taken hostage in Iraq has been freed, according to a videotape obtained by Associated Press Television News on Wednesday.

"Today the Mujahedeen released me and I will go to the embassy," said the man identified as Aytulla Gezmen. He was shown standing next to a masked man before getting into a car.

It was not immediately clear where the release of the Arabic language translator took place.

Huseyin Gezmen, Aytullah Gezmen's brother, told Turkey's Anatolia news agency that Gezmen called the family in the southern city of Iskenderun and was expected to return home in two days.

"We heard his voice for the first time in 52 days. We spoke to him on the telephone. My brother is back from the dead. He's at the embassy in Baghdad. He said he'll be home in two days," Huseyin Gezmen was quoted as saying.

"We will sacrifice an animal for my brother," he said. "My brother will definitely never go back to Iraq."

Word of Gezmen's releaase came a day after a militant group said in a separate video that it would free Gezmen, who the militants had accused of working for the Americans. It threatened to behead all those who deal with coalition forces here.

"The Shura Council of the Mujahedeen decided to release the Turkish hostage after he has converted to Islam and has repented for working with the infidel American occupation forces," a masked man said in a statement read out on Tuesday's tape.

"We warn the Turkish government against pushing its citizens to work with the infidel occupation forces," the man said. "We will sever the head of all those who deal with the infidel occupation forces."

It showed five masked men, some holding guns, standing behind the apparent hostage. A sixth man squatted next to the hostage who was sitting, cross-legged on the floor and holding his passport opened to the photo page.

In Wednesday's tape, he warned Turks to keep away from U.S. forces.

"The Turkish people should not work with the Americans," he said. The man standing next to him made no comment.

Gezmen said in the earlier video that he had been working with the U.S. forces for seven months, adding that after his kidnapping he started to pray, read the Quran and converted to Islam. "I bear witness that there's no God but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's messenger," he said, repeating the Muslim declaration of faith.

The statement Tuesday said the release came in recognition of "the stance of the Turkish people and its support to the city of Tal Afar."

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has warned American officials that Ankara would stop cooperating in Iraq if U.S. forces continued to harm the Turkish minority in the country's north. Tal Afar is a center for Iraq's ethnic Turks and has been besieged by U.S and Iraqi forces.

The siege was lifted on Tuesday.

In other recent developments:

  • Iraq's Interior Ministry revealed Wednesday that authorities have found three headless bodies on the road near Dijiel, 25 miles north of Baghdad. Their heads were found nearby, but there were no identifying documents on the men described by authorities as having "old tattoos." No further details have been released.
  • A car bomb exploded Wednesday in Suwayrah, 40 miles south of Baghdad, killing two people and injuring ten others. Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman, an Interior Ministry official, says the 9 a.m. blast targeted a National Guard checkpoint and one national guardsman is among the dead.
  • A car bomb Tuesday ripped through a busy market near a Baghdad police headquarters where Iraqis were waiting to apply for jobs on the force, and gunmen opened fire on a van carrying police home from work in Baqouba, killing at least 59 people total and wounding at least 114. An al Qaeda-linked group headed by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the car bomb, which exploded by a bustling row of shops and cafes and left a gaping 10-foot crater.
  • The Pentagon said 219 U.S. soldiers were wounded in Iraq in the past week. The number of Americans killed and wounded has grown rapidly amid an intensifying and increasingly effective insurgency. The total number of GIs wounded since the U.S. invaded Iraq now stands at 7,245.
  • Saboteurs Tuesday blew up a junction where multiple oil pipelines cross the Tigris River in northern Iraq, setting off a chain reaction in power generation systems that left the entire country without power.
  • Also Tuesday, the Arab television network Al-Jazeera broadcast footage of a Jordanian truck driver taken hostage in Iraq.
  • Prime Minister John Howard said he would not withdraw troops from Iraq as demanded by militants who claimed to have taken two Australians hostage and threatened to execute them.
  • Spain and the United States have clashed again over Iraq, as U.S. officials seek clarification of the Spanish prime minister's remarks urging countries with troops there to follow his lead and withdraw.

    Tuesday's car bomb in Baghdad devastated buildings and gutted cars near the western Baghdad police headquarters on Haifa street, an insurgent enclave that has been the scene of fierce clashes with U.S. troops. Though the attack apparently targeted police, many of the 47 dead were people who had been shopping or having a morning meal.

    At least 114 others were wounded.

    Paramedics and residents picked up body parts scattered across the street and put them into boxes. Anguished men lifted bodies burned beyond recognition and lay them gently on stretchers. Helicopters circled.

    The bomb was inside a Toyota vehicle parked near the market and a short distance down the road from the police headquarters, which was closed to traffic, said Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdel-Rahman.

    Mahdi Mohammed, 30, was standing outside his barbershop when the explosion went off.

    "It was a horrific scene. Seconds earlier people were drinking tea or eating sandwiches and then I could see their remains hanging from trees," he said. "I could see burning people running in all directions."

    Angry crowds of young men pumped their fists in the air and denounced President Bush and interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, saying they had failed to protect Iraqis. "Bush is a dog," they chanted.

    Others, however, directed their anger at the militants.

    "Such acts cannot be considered part of the resistance (against American forces). This is not a jihad, they are not mujahedeen," said Amir Abdel Hassan, a 41-year-old teacher. "Iraq is not a country, it's a big graveyard," he said.

    Al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on an Islamic Web site. "Thanks to God alone, a lion from the Brigades of Those Seeking Martyrdom succeeded in attacking the center of volunteers for the renegade police apparatus," said the statement, signed by the group.

    In Baqouba, gunmen in two cars opened fire Tuesday on a van carrying policemen home from work, killing 11 officers and a civilian, said Qaisar Hamid of Baqouba General Hospital.

    The incident occurred when the policemen were returning to their station after they were told that a trip to a training camp has been postponed, said an officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    Attacks on Iraqi security forces and police officers - seen as collaborators by militants - have left hundreds of people dead since insurgents began a 17-month campaign to expel U.S.-led forces and destabilize Allawi's government.

    From April 2003 to May 2004, 710 Iraqi police were killed out of a total force of 130,000 officers, authorities said. Until then, police say, an officer's death was nearly always of natural causes.

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