Egyptian Hostages in Iraq May Be Freed

Egypt said Tuesday that Iraqi kidnappers had freed one Egyptian hostage and were expected to release three others shortly. The holding company that employed the four hostages confirmed that one had been released but said it could not give the status of the others.

The released hostage is Alaa Muqar, Orascom (search) said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press. "The company is doing its best to secure the release of the other three hostages."

Earlier Tuesday, an Orascom official had told The Associated Press the company had heard that four kidnapped workers had been released but it could not confirm.

"We want to see them arriving at our company's headquarters in Baghdad," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In two separate kidnappings, six Egyptians were abducted last week. Four worked for Iraqna, an Iraqi subsidiary of Orascom, and two were employed by Motorola (search), a subcontractor of Orascom in Iraq.

The Egyptian charge d'affaires in Baghdad, Farouq Mabrouk, told Associated Press Television News:

"Yesterday a hostage was released and we have three others to be released, God willing. The kidnapping was motivated by financial reasons," Mabrouk added.

The Orascom statement said nothing about ransom being paid.

Four Iraqis were kidnapped with the Egyptians. One Iraqi was later released.

No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

More than 100 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship last year. Some kidnapping groups seek to extort ransom, others pursue the political motives of trying to force foreign forces or companies to quit Iraq. Many hostages have been killed.