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Kidnapped Jordanian freed in Iraq - official

By Staff
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AMMAN, Feb 21 (Reuters) A Jordanian embassy driver kidnapped two months ago by Iraqi militants demanding the release of a failed woman suicide bomber has been freed, Jordanian officials today said.

The release of the Jordanian driver, Mahmoud Saedat, may raise hopes that other hostages may be freed, including US journalist Jill Carroll, who was abducted on January 17.

The most recent video released by her abductors reiterated she would be killed if their demands are not met.

Carroll's high-profile abduction was followed by the kidnapping of two German engineers.

The Jordanian officials did not say how Saedat was released after his abduction by a little-known group which had demanded the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who said on state television in November that she had tried to blow herself up alongside her husband in hotel bombings in Amman.

Jordan had said it would not give in to the kidnappers' demand to free Rishawi, but that it was sparing no effort to secure Saedat's release.

Arab diplomats and embassy workers have been kidnapped and killed in recent months by Islamist militants, worsening the already frosty relations between Iraq's U.S.-backed Shi'ite led government and Sunni dominated Arab states.

The Baghdad embassy of U.S. ally Jordan has been the target of two car bomb attacks since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Thousands of Iraqis have also been kidnapped.

Westerners have suffered a spate of kidnappings in Iraq over the past few months after a lull during most of 2005. Four Christian peace activists -- a Briton, an American and two Canadians -- are still being held captive.

Carroll is the 31st journalist kidnapped in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003, according to Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres, a media advocacy group.

More than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been abducted in the anarchy that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Most foreign hostages have been released, but 54 are known to have been killed; more than 50 are still believed to be held.

REUTERS MSJ RAI0034

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