BAGHDAD, Iraq – Five Iraqi women detainees were released Thursday by the U.S. military, FOX News has confirmed. They were among hundreds of Iraqi prisoners released after officials found no reason to continue their detention.
Major Gen. Rick Lynch said Thursday the women were released along with more than 400 male prisoners.
The release of the female detainees was also part of a demand by kidnappers who took American journalist Jill Carroll hostage last week. A U.S. official said the release was unrelated to the kidnappers' demands.
But an Iraq Interior Ministry official said the move could help free Carroll.
"Any announcement may not benefit the case because of its sensitivity, but we can say, God willing, that she will be released," Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal, the ministry's head of intelligence, told The Associated Press. "The release of the five Iraqi women might assist in releasing Carroll."
The women were freed from U.S. custody and delivered to the home of a senior Sunni Arab politician in Baghdad, where they were returned to their families, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene. They were later driven away in taxis.
Armed men abducted Carroll, a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, on Jan. 7 in Baghdad and threatened to kill her unless all Iraqi women prisoners were released.
David Cook, the Washington bureau chief for The Christian Science Monitor, said: "We've seen the reports. We're waiting to see if there are hopeful developments in Iraq."
The U.S. military announced earlier that the women would be freed as part of a group of about 420 Iraqis to be released Thursday and Friday from military custody after reviews of their cases determined there was no reason to detain them further.
Two more women were detained Thursday in Mosul, according to U.S. officials, bringing the total number of women currently in detention to five.
Meanwhile, two U.S. soldiers were killed in separate attacks Wednesday. South of Baghdad, a U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb blast, while a soldier assigned to U.S. Marines operating in western Iraq died from wounds sustained by a rocket strike on his vehicle near Ramadi.
North of Baghdad, three Iraqi soldiers were killed and four wounded by another roadside bomb on Wednesday afternoon, police Lt. Amir al-Ahbabi said. The attack happened in the Ishaki area on the Baghdad-Mosul highway, about 55 miles north of the Iraqi capital.
The U.S. soldiers involved in the blast south of Baghdad belonged to the Multi-National Division Baghdad and were targeted Wednesday, the military said in a statement. The name of the soldier who was killed in that attack is being withheld pending next-of-kin notification.
At least 2,238 U.S. military personnel have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
In Washington, President Bush shrugged off a recent Pentagon-contracted report which concluded the Army was overextended and the United States cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency there.
The president predicted victory in Iraq and said, "Our commanders will have the troops necessary to do that."
Trade and Minerals Minister Osama Abdul-Aziz al-Najafi escaped a seventh assassination attempt Thursday after a roadside bomb targeted his convoy north of Baghdad, but three bodyguards were killed and a fourth was seriously wounded, ministry spokeswoman Hanan Jassim said.
In Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, gunmen driving a red Opel assassinated a senior official of Iraq's anti-corruption commission and the deputy director of a state-run food stuff company in separate attacks Thursday, police Capt. Farhad Talabani said.
Anti-corruption official Othman Majeed Rasheed, a 51-year-old Turkoman, was walking from his home to his nearby office when he was killed by a hail of gunfire, Talabani said.
Shortly after, the same group of gunmen shot dead Jomaa Rasheed, a Kurd who is the deputy director of the state-run company for foodstuffs, in the same area, Talabani said. The two victims were unrelated.
Police believe the men were killed by the same masked gunmen who launched similar attacks on Jan. 17, targeting another Kirkuk office of the anti-corruption watchdog, known as the Integrity Commission, and offices for the Kurdistan Peoples Party, killing two people and wounding three.
Shiite cleric Fayez Mahmoud al-Moussaoui was killed after being caught in the crossfire between Iraqi soldiers and gunmen clashing in western Baghdad's Baiyaa district, police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razzaq said.
Zaid Attah, a retired Trade Ministry employee, was shot dead by gunmen who broke into his home in western Baghdad's Amariyah neighborhood, police Capt. Qassim Hussein said.
Gunmen disguised as Iraqi soldiers kidnapped Hadi al-Dahlaki, owner of a food company, and killed his son Wednesday during a raid on their factory in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, Diyala police said. The al-Dahlaki family is one of Baqouba's wealthiest, and several of the hostage's sons have been kidnapped and released previously after the paying of ransoms.
Police found four bound and blindfolded bodies riddled with bullet holes Thursday in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, said Capt. Rasheed al-Samaraei.
The U.S. military confirmed last week it was holding nine Iraqi women. On Thursday, however, the military said it had detained two more women and three men for alleged insurgent activities in the northern city of Mosul.
Detainees are regularly freed in Iraq following reviews of their cases, a process that can take months, and U.S. officials have said the upcoming releases were part of the routine procedure and not linked to Carroll's case.
Iraqi Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim Ali said the five female detainees were freed from the Camp Cropper detention center on a U.S. base near Baghdad International Airport before being brought to the Sunni leader and their families waiting in the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the Iraqi government and U.S. Embassy are based.
Detainees are usually transported from detention centers to a Baghdad bus station or to towns near their homes and let go.
Siham Faraj, the mother of one of the women to be freed, said she was waiting anxiously to see her daughter and hoped it would lead to Carroll's safe release.
"We are happy and we thank God for this blessing," said Faraj, whose 28-year-old Hala Khalid was arrested with her brother on Sept. 24 during a dawn raid by U.S. forces on their Baghdad home.
"I call upon the kidnappers of the American reporter to release her because she is as innocent as Hala," Faraj told The Associated Press. "I wish the Americans would stop random arrests. We only want peace in this country."
On Wednesday, police said the kidnappers of two German engineers seized their captives only two days after the pair arrived in Iraq, gaining access to their compound by pretending to be soldiers.
The two kidnapped German men arrived Sunday for a brief assignment at a government-owned detergent plant in Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, German and Iraqi officials said.
Iraqi police initially reported the two were grabbed as they were driving to work Tuesday. But on Wednesday, two policemen — Lt. Arkan Ali and officer Salih al-Janabi — said the Germans were taken from their compound by armed men who gained access by pretending to be soldiers.
In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there had been no contact with the kidnappers, and government spokesman Thomas Steg said the reason for the abduction was not known.
More than 240 foreigners have been abducted in Iraq since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein — either by insurgents or criminal gangs. At least 39 captives have been killed. Thousands of Iraqis are believed to have fallen victim to kidnappers, many of them for ransom.
The German government has refused to identify the two hostages. But the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper identified them as Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich. The men work for an engineering firm based in Leipzig.
Other than Carroll, at least four foreigners have been abducted this month, including two Kenyan communications engineers missing after an ambush in Baghdad on Jan. 18.
An Iraqi television journalist, Mahmoud Zaal, was killed Tuesday while filming fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents near the western city of Ramadi, said Thaer Ahmed, deputy director of Baghdad Television, the station where Zaal worked. The circumstances of his death were not clear.
About 60 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
An Iraqi television personality said she escaped kidnapping Tuesday by jumping from her second-floor balcony in Baghdad. Nagham Abdul-Zahra suffered multiple fractures but her husband was freed unharmed.
A prominent Sunni Arab cleric, Karim Jassim Mohammed, 39, was shot to death Wednesday by police at a checkpoint heading into the northern city of Samarra, said police Capt. Laith Mohammed. A policeman also was gunned down in Baghdad's Sadr City, police said.
The violence occurred as Iraqi political parties prepare for talks aimed at forming a government to include Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds following last month's election.
The Shiite bloc set to dominate the next parliament, the United Iraqi Alliance, will decide on its nominee for prime minister in the next few days, said a top Shiite official, Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
Abdul-Mahdi is among four prominent Shiites mentioned as possible premiers. The others are Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari; nuclear physicist Hussain al-Shahrastani; and Nadim al-Jabiri of the Fadhila party, a religious group whose spiritual leader is radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's late father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.