U.S. raid frees foreign hostages

BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. special forces freed four hostages in a raid Tuesday after staking out their captors’ hideout for a day – the first military rescue of foreigners caught up in Iraq’s wave of kidnappings. But there was no word on the fate of a U.S. soldier held hostage and two other Americans missing since an attack on a fuel convoy nearly two months ago.

Earlier on Tuesday, car bombs killed 15 people – including a U.S. soldier – and wounded 50.

The first of the car bombings occurred at a checkpoint just outside the gate of a U.S. military base in Baqouba, about 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, Maj. Neal O’Brien said. American troops were preparing to inspect a vehicle when it exploded, killing one U.S. soldier and five Iraqis, the U.S. military and police said. Fifteen Iraqis and 10 U.S. soldiers were wounded.

A second car bomb exploded in the northern city of Mosul as a convoy of provincial council members passed by. The council members escaped injury, officials said. But nine people died and about 25 were injured, according to the U.S. military.

Afterward, attackers fired several mortar rounds at a coalition military base camp in Mosul. Two civilian contract employees were wounded, the U.S. military said.

Also on Tuesday, six European soldiers – two Poles, three Slovaks and a Latvian – died when munitions they were transporting exploded south of Baghdad.

In Baghdad, the U.S. military announced the rescue of four hostages – three Italians and a Pole. Separately, Iraqi militants disclosed they had kidnapped seven Turks and threatened to abduct more foreigners working with U.S. forces.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. officer in Iraq, announced the rescue but gave few details. He said several suspects were arrested.

The Italian hostages, who were in Iraq as private security guards, were abducted in April. A fourth Italian was slain shortly after the kidnapping. The Polish hostage, who works for the Jedynka construction company, was kidnapped last week.

Also on Tuesday, videotape obtained by Associated Press Television News showed three new Turkish hostages surrounded by armed men wearing masks. Four other hostages were shown to reporters separately.

The Americans missing in Iraq were all part of a supply convoy that was attacked April 9 outside Baghdad. William Bradley of Chesterfield, N.H., and Timothy Bell of Mobile, Ala., truck drivers working for Halliburton subsidiary KBR, remain missing.

Days later, Pfc. Keith M. Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, was shown in a video being held by masked gunmen.

Associated Press

At her family home in Sammichele, Italy, Carmela Cupertino holds a photo Tuesday of her son Umberto, one of three Italian hostages freed in Iraq.

Associated Press

Italian hostages (from left) Umberto Cupertino, Salvatore Stefio and Maurizio Agliani appear on Al Jazeera television last week.

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