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Turkish government: Hostage freed

From CNN Correspondent Alphonso Van Marsh

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(CNN) -- Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reported Monday that kidnapped truck driver Mithat Civi, a Turkish national, had been freed by his captors.

Turkey confirmed the release through "independent sources and contacts in Iraq," said Ministry spokesman Namik Tan. No further details were offered.

CNN viewed videotape released by the captors showing Civi's purported release. Civi is shown kissing a Koran three times, shaking hands, and kissing and hugging his alleged captors.

A Turkish diplomat in Baghdad, however, said that officials there had received no information about Civi being released.

The Civi family learned of the reported release when CNN called Civi's brother-in-law, Sedat Tati, at the family residence in Mersin, Turkey.

Tati said that Civi's wife had been admitted to the hospital last night because of stress over the hostage-taking. "This is the best news we've heard. Let me go and tell Mithat's wife," he said.

Selim Rende, owner of Turkish Renay International Transportation Company, said Civi was kidnapped while driving an empty truck from a U.S. base in Mosul. He said the truck had carried food goods to the U.S. military.

Rende recounted the kidnappers called him, demanding his company stop doing business in Iraq. He said he agreed to the demand and as a result, his company will lose $300,000 to $400,000 in contracts. He said he will be leaving his office in Kuwait in about 10 days.

Rende said there was no demand for ransom, and his company paid no money to the kidnappers.

He criticized the role of U.S. troops in Iraq: "The American soldiers don't do anything to protect [Turkish truck convoys]. If this is how it goes, in a matter of months there won't be any more trucks going into Iraq."

Last month, Turkey presented a list of requests to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. The requests, focusing on ways to keep Turkish truck drivers safe in Iraq, included increased U.S. military escorts for truck convoys, an emergency cell phone network for Turkish drivers in Iraq, and establishing safe houses and check points along trucking routes.

When asked if the Americans played a greater role in this hostage crisis, or if he was satisfied with the role the United States played to secure Civi's release, Tan said.

"We try to understand that the Americans are heavily engaged with other terror organizations in Iraq. We are satisfied that [the Americans] have a will to coordinate efforts, but we want it on a more effective level."


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