BAGHDAD, Iraq – Fierce gunbattles broke out Wednesday between Iraqi police and dozens of masked militants roaming the northern city of Mosul (search), killing 12 Iraqis and wounding 26 others, officials said.
Police confronted the militants, who were carrying assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers while moving through streets in the Bab al-Toub area of Mosul. The battle was punctuated by explosions, witnesses said.
In the turbulent city of Fallujah (search), a tribal chief said Wednesday he led a raid that freed four Jordanian hostages, while a militant group released two Turkish workers after Turkish truck drivers agreed to halt deliveries to U.S. forces here.
The Jordanians were kidnapped eight days ago along a highway near Fallujah by a gang that never specified its demands, said Ahmad Abu-Jaafar, a freed captive.
"The kidnappers have nothing to do with the resistance," Abu-Jaafar told The Associated Press by telephone.
Also Wednesday, the Arab satellite network al-Jazeera reported that an Al Qaeda-linked militant group freed two Turkish hostages after their company promised to stop sending trucks to U.S. troops in Iraq. Turkey's truckers association also agreed to halt deliveries to Americans after the release of a video showing militants shooting and killing contractor Murat Yuce.
"The two Turkish hostages in Iraq have been released," Turkey's Anatolia news agency quoted Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as saying hours later. "This good news has made us happy."
The U.S. military there was a series of attacks in Mosul, including a grenade attack on a home, a shooting at a police station and a roadside bomb attack on a U.S. convoy. No U.S. troops were killed, said Capt. Angela Bowman, a U.S. Army spokeswoman in Mosul.
Hazem Jalawi, spokesman for Nineveh province, which includes Mosul, said the shootout started after "a group of thieves and terrorists" tried to attack a bank in the city 225 miles north of Baghdad.
"The police and National Guard members confronted those armed men and killed some," Jalawi said. "Those armed men tried also to attack some government installations, but they were stopped by security forces."
The fighting killed 12 people and injured 26 others, said Mahir Salam, an official at Mosul's al-Junhouri Hospital.
In response, provincial Gov. Doreid Mohammed Kashmoula announced a curfew beginning at 3 p.m.
The raid to free the four Jordanian hostages began after Sheik Haj Ibrahim Jassam received word Tuesday the captives were in a house on the edge of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, he said. About 100 armed members of Jassam's tribe raided the house, and the five kidnappers inside fled.
The Jordanians were brought to Jassam's house unharmed, he said.
"I called upon my brothers and tribesmen to free the hostages, so we raided the house last night," Jassam told the AP. "I'm glad that those innocent Muslims were freed."
The men were abducted by a group calling itself "Mujahedeen of Iraq, the Group of Death." On July 27, Dubai Television broadcast a video showing four men holding what appeared to be Jordanian identification cards.
During their ordeal, the hostages were blindfolded and moved to a different house every two days, freed hostage Mohammed Khleifat said.
"We couldn't eat the food they gave us. The four of us got sick from the food and the water," he said.
Families of the hostages — three drivers and a businessman — previously said the kidnappers promised to free them after their relatives and fellow truck drivers staged an anti-American demonstration last Friday.
The truck drivers were the latest taken hostage in Iraq during an insurgent campaign to spoil reconstruction work. Kidnappers have found the poorly protected drivers easy targets, seizing them at will with little concern about their country of origin.
As a result, several companies in the Middle East have halted work in Iraq. The Philippine government also withdrew its small troop contingent a month early to win the release of a captured Filipino truck driver.
The movement of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), the Tawhid and Jihad (search ) group, claimed in a video July 30 it kidnapped the Turks and threatened to behead them within 48 hours unless their company left Iraq.
The two freed captives, Abdurrahman Demir and Sait Unurlu, were shown in a video broadcast Wednesday kneeling before three black-clad masked men carrying weapons.
"Since the Turkish company decided to stop sending its trucks to American troops in Iraq, the Tawhid and Jihad has decided to release the two Turkish hostages," one masked man read aloud, clutching a pistol in his right hand.
Meanwhile, an Iraqi civilian was killed when a roadside bomb detonated as an Iraqi National Guard (search ) patrol passed in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, Wednesday morning. The guards were unharmed, said Ali Hussein, from Baqouba's General Hospital.
Also Wednesday, Karbala police announced they had arrested 315 Iranians and Afghans with forged passports. Most were being deported but 16 were being questioned for possible terror links, said Karbala police spokesman Rahman Mishawi. Four others had confessed to planning terror operations, he said.