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Jordanian, Turk Freed in Iraq

Kidnappers released a Jordanian truck driver Thursday after his company declared it would stop working in Iraq, a Jordanian Foreign Ministry official said.

The truck driver's release came soon after militants freed a Turkish hostage.

Jordan's official Petra news agency quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry official as saying Turki Simer Khalifeh al-Breizat was freed and taken to the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad.

Al-Breizat was released following "intensive joint efforts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the [Jordanian] embassy in Baghdad and through the people and the honorable tribal heads of Fallujah," the agency said.

The driver's employer — Ibrahim Abul-Sheeh al-Zubi's Transport Company — declared Wednesday that it had ceased operating in Iraq in an effort to win al-Breizat's release. The driver was abducted while transporting supplies to American forces.

"The company has stopped working in Iraq," al-Zubi told the pan-Arab satellite television station Al-Jazeera on Wednesday. "There were no direct communications with the abductors but we appealed to them and made contacts with tribal heads hoping to reach a solution."

On Tuesday, Iraqi militants announced they had kidnapped al-Breizat in a videotape broadcast on Al-Jazeera. The tape showed him kneeling in front of three masked men and holding his passport.

The kidnappers, calling themselves the "Brigades of al-Tawhid Lions (search)," gave the driver's employer 48 hours to suspend its activities in Iraq.

News about the hostages came a day after insurgents warned Jordanian truckers that they would be killed if they entered Iraq. The Islamic Army in Iraq (search) accused Jordanian drivers of transporting supplies to American forces.

At least 12 Jordanians have been abducted since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003; many of them have been executed.

The Jordanian's release Thursday comes a day after news that militants freed a Turkish hostage, according to a videotape obtained by Associated Press Television News.

"Today the Mujahedeen released me and I will go to the embassy," said the man identified as Aytullah Gezmen.

He was shown standing next to a masked man before getting into a car, and it was not immediately clear when he was released.

Gezmen was accused by militants of working for the Americans, and the militants holding him threatened to behead all those dealing with coalition forces here.

"The Shura Council of the Mujahedeen (search) decided to release the Turkish hostage after he has converted to Islam and has repented for working with the infidel American occupation forces," a masked man said in a statement read on Tuesday's tape.

"We warn the Turkish government against pushing its citizens to work with the infidel occupation forces. We will sever the head of all those who deal with the infidel occupation forces."

The tape showed five masked men, some holding guns, standing behind the apparent hostage. A sixth man squatted next to the hostage, who was sitting cross-legged on the floor and holding his passport opened to the photo page.

In Wednesday's tape, he warned Turks to keep away from U.S. forces.

"The Turkish people should not work with the Americans," he said. The man standing next to him made no comment.

Gezmen said in the earlier video that he had worked with the U.S. forces for seven months, adding that after his kidnapping he started to pray, read the Quran and converted to Islam.

"I bear witness that there's no God but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's messenger," he said, repeating the Muslim declaration of faith.

Tuesday's militant statement said Gezmen was released in recognition of "the stance of the Turkish people and its support to the city of Tal Afar."

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul warned American officials that Ankara would stop cooperating in Iraq if U.S. forces continued harming the Turkish minority in the country's north. Tal Afar is a center for Iraq's ethnic Turks and has been besieged by U.S and Iraqi forces.

The siege was lifted Tuesday.

Huseyin Gezmen, Aytullah Gezmen's brother, told Turkey's Anatolia news agency that the former hostage called the family in the southern city of Iskenderun and was expected to return home in two days.

"We heard his voice for the first time in 52 days. We spoke to him on the telephone. My brother is back from the dead. He's at the embassy in Baghdad. He said he'll be home in two days," Huseyin Gezmen was quoted as saying.