Kidnapped Iraqi reporter freed, says no ransom paid

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BAGHDAD, Nov 19 (Reuters) An Iraqi TV journalist who was kidnapped last week in a busy Baghdad neighbourhood said he was released unharmed before dawn today.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, a correspondent for the independent al- Baghdadiya television station, said he spent more than two days blindfolded, barely eating and drinking, after armed men forced him into a car as he walked to work on Friday morning in the bustling Bab al-Sharji area of central Baghdad.

''My release is a miracle. I couldn't believe I was still alive,'' Zaidi, 28, told Reuters by telephone.

Zaidi said the kidnappers had beaten him until he lost consciousness. They used his necktie to blindfold him and bound his hands with his shoelaces.

He never learned the identity of the kidnappers, who questioned him closely about his work but did not demand a ransom.

The captors later told Zaidi he would be released, throwing him on to a dark street, still blindfolded, around 3 a.m. 0530 hrs IST today. He was then picked up by his brother.

At least 122 journalists and 41 media support staff have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. About 85 per cent of those killed were Iraqis.

Some Iraqi journalists have been targeted by Sunni Arab militants or by Shi'ite militias. Others have been killed by US forces while reporting.

REUTERS SYU BD1935

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