Iraqi-Swedish politician freed
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (Reuters) -- An Iraqi-Swedish Christian politician who was kidnapped in Baghdad in January has been freed, Sweden's foreign ministry said on Friday.
Minas al-Yousifi, the 59-year-old leader of Iraq's Christian Democrats who returned from exile in Sweden to re-establish the party two years ago, was abducted by the Iraqi Vengeance Battalion, Martyr al-Isawi Brigade.
They had threatened to behead him unless a $4 million ransom was paid and U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq. The kidnappers later reduced their ransom demand to $400,000.
"He is free," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Asa Arvidson. A Swedish newspaper Web site said Yousifi's family was in Iraq and would hold a news conference on Saturday.
Yousifi had made video-taped appeals for his release, calling on Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Pope John Paul to help him. His family and Swedish Christian Democrat politician Goran Hagglund complained Sweden was indifferent to his fate.
Yousifi sought asylum in Sweden 20 years ago during the rule of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Christians make up about 3 percent of Iraq's 27 million people.
Since Saddam fell almost two years ago after a U.S.-led invasion, more than 150 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq. Most have been released but some were killed.