8 Chinese Hostages Released

Published January 22, 2005

| Associated Press

Insurgents decided to release eight Chinese construction workers taken hostage in Iraq after China pledged to discourage its citizens from traveling to Iraq, according to a videotape aired Saturday by Al-Arabiya (search) television.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported that the Chinese Embassy (search) in Baghdad confirmed that the eight men had been released.

"The Islamic Resistance Movement, Al-Numan Battalion, has decided to release the eight citizens as a goodwill gesture for the friendship between the two countries of Iraq and China," an insurgent said on the tape.

"They were not harmed during the period they were held and also they weren't exchanged for any amount of money," the rebel added.

The tape showed each of the Chinese shaking hands with a masked insurgent under sunny, brilliant blue skies, the weather conditions prevailing Friday. It was raining in the Baghdad area Saturday.

In a statement Friday broadcast on Al-Arabiya, the Chinese Embassy in Baghdad said Beijing had issued "more than one warning to Chinese citizens in order not to go to Iraq at the present time" and appealed for the hostages' release.

The Chinese government said the hostages are migrant workers from the southeastern province of Fujian who traveled to Iraq hoping to earn money to support their families back home. They disappeared while leaving Iraq for Jordan (search).

The insurgent group said they had worked at American sites in Iraq.

Fujian sends thousands of laborers each year to the Middle East and elsewhere.

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