msnbc.com news services
updated 6/13/2004 6:04:48 AM ET 2004-06-13T10:04:48

Two foreign hostages -- a Turk and an Egyptian -- were freed in Iraq on Sunday, a mediator involved in their release said.

The mediator, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters the men were released after talks with people close to their captors on Saturday. He gave no details.

A group calling itself The Jihadist Groups had released a statement on Thursday warning that the two hostages would be killed on Saturday because they were of no value to their governments unlike the hostages of Western countries.

The Dubai-based Al Arabiya television aired footage on Wednesday of an Iraqi group threatening to kill the Egyptian and Turkish hostages if their countries did not condemn the U.S.-led occupation in Iraq.

Lebanese hostage killed
Dozens of foreigners have been taken hostage by Iraqi armed groups who are battling the U.S.-led presence in Iraq. Some hostages have been released but others have been killed.

On Saturday, a Lebanese Foreign Ministry official said a Lebanese construction worker, Hussein Ali Alyan, had been shot dead by kidnappers and his body found Saturday near Fallujah.

The official, Mohammed Issa, said Alyan was among three Lebanese who had been abducted by Iraq although he did not say when. One was freed and the other is missing.

Hassan Hijazi, the senior Lebanese diplomat in Baghdad, told the privately owned Voice of Lebanon radio that gunmen wearing Iraqi police uniforms were kidnapping foreigners with the aim of seeking ransoms.

On Saturday, seven Turkish contractors who had been abducted while working for a Turkish construction company were freed in Fallujah by their captors. Serdar Adali, a director of the Turkish construction company which employed them, told CNN-Turk television that “prominent families” in Iraq had helped secure the release.

More than 40 people from several countries have been abducted in Iraq since April — although many of them have been released or freed by coalition soldiers.

Three Americans — Pfc. Keith M. Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, William Bradley of Chesterfield, N.H. and Timothy Bell of Mobile, Ala. — are missing since their convoy was attacked April 9 outside Baghdad.

Many of the kidnappings appear to have occurred between the Sunni Muslim cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, scene of a three-week siege by Marines in April after the savage killing of four employees of the U.S. security firm Blackwater USA.

Following an international outcry over the siege, the Marines withdrew and handed security over to an Iraqi force made up of former Iraqi army officers — and some insurgents. Ten Marines and hundreds of Iraqis died in the siege, which ended with the Blackwater killers still at large.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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