BUCHAREST, Romania – Three Romanian journalists who were held hostage in Iraq for nearly two months arrived home aboard a military plane Monday, a day after their release.
Television reporter Marie Jeanne Ion (search) and cameraman Sorin Miscoci (search), both of Prima TV, and Ovidiu Ohanesian (search), a reporter from the daily newspaper Romania Libera, were kidnapped in Baghdad on March 28 with their Iraqi-American guide, Mohammed Monaf (search).
The four were freed Sunday. The journalists flew Monday to Romania, where they were greeted by President Traian Basescu (search) and hundreds of journalists and friends. Monaf remained in Iraq in U.S. custody, the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest said.
Their kidnappers had threatened to kill the hostages unless Romania pulled its 800 troops out of Iraq. Basescu refused, saying Romania would not negotiate its foreign policy with the kidnappers nor pay a ransom.
A video aired on Al-Jazeera TV showed the journalists in handcuffs with pistols pointed at their heads. Ion could be seen talking to the camera and clutching her hands as if pleading.
In a separate audio message, they asked Romania's government to save their lives.
In recent weeks, Romanian authorities said they were in contact with the kidnappers and called on them not to kill the hostages. The government gave no details about the conditions of their release.
After landing in Bucharest, the three Romanians, who appeared to be in good health, exited the plane and hugged their families. They were joined by Basescu, and all four raised their hands and made "V" signs with their fingers. Ion whooped with delight, while Miscoci waived a bouquet of red carnations.
"They are safe and that's all that matters," said Ohanesian's sister, Anne Marie.
Miscoci's mother, Elena, who traveled from the central city of Sibiu, said her son made a joke when she hugged him.
"He looks well," she said.
Ion was wearing the same scarf she wore in the videotape sent by kidnappers, her sister, Ana Maria Ion, said.
As the plane carrying the hostages landed, one of its tires blew out. However, the C-130 Hercules transport came to a safe stop and no one appeared to be injured.