Five Iraqi agents, two UK soldiers killed in southern Iraq as Italian, Egyptian hostages freed
Gunmen killed five members of Iraq's intelligence agency as they returned a civilian released from kidnappers to his family Tuesday, an Iraqi intelligence officer said.
The incident took place in Basra's northern neighbourhood of Gurna, Major Jasim al-Darraji, a member of the General Security Directorate, Iraq's top spy agency, said.
He said the agents were returning an Iraqi citizen kidnapped last week.
Earlier, two British soldiers were killed in an ambush of a military convoy.
The attackers ambushed a convoy of three British army vehicles southwest of the main southern city of Basra, damaging one armoured Land Rover, a defence ministry spokesman said in London.
"Whilst they were trying to get the men out of the Land Rover, the damaged one, they came under further heavy fire, and unfortunately neither of the two casualties survived," the spokesman said. Hospital officials in Basra said at least two Iraqi bystanders were also injured.
Meanwhile, a pair of Egyptian hostages were freed Tuesday. The two Egyptians were among eight employees of Egyptian telecom firm Orascom kidnapped in Iraq last week, six of them in the Syrian border town of Al-Qaim and two of them in the capital.
"Two hostages... were freed Monday night from Al-Qaim and another two are expected to be today," said an Orascom spokesman. Two Iraqis among the Orascom employees abducted in Al-Qaim are already believed to have been freed, although this has not been confirmed.
In a related development, two kidnapped Italian aid workers were freed after three weeks of captivity. "Finally a moment of joy," Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said, announcing to the Parliament in Rome that the two Italians and two Iraqis kidnapped with them were handed over to the Red Cross in Baghdad.
"The two girls are well and will be able to return to their loved ones tonight," he said, to cheers from lawmakers. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)