Iraqi journalist reportedly abducted

New York, February 22, 2005—Two Indonesian journalists and their driver, who were abducted by gunmen last week west of Baghdad, were released yesterday, according to international press reports.

According to The Associated Press (AP), reporter Meutya Viada Hafid and cameraman Budiyanto, who work for Indonesia’s 24-hour news channel Metro TV, and their driver, Ibrahim Abdel Khader, were freed and en route to Amman, Jordan, on Monday. The men are said to be in good health.

In a telephone interview with Metro TV, the journalists said they were abducted near the Iraqi city of Ramadi last week by three men, one of them armed with an assault rifle, while they refueled their vehicle, the AP reported.

On Monday, a video obtained by Associated Press Television News in Baghdad showed what appeared to be the gunmen releasing the journalists. The AP said the video showed a masked person reading from a notebook, saying, “Based on the good will they showed, and respecting the feelings of brotherhood and Islam between the two countries, and respecting the Indonesian anti-occupation role, we decided to release the two journalists without any conditions and ransom.”

Hafid, Budiyanto, and Abdel Khader disappeared last Tuesday while driving from Amman, Jordan. The journalists had gone to Iraq to cover this week’s observance of Ashura, one of the most important religious events for Shiites, according to station officials.

Another journalist abducted
In a separate development on Monday, February 21, militants abducted Iraqi journalist Raeda Wazzan, of the national public Al-Iraqiya TV station, along with her 10-year-old son in Mosul, according to international press reports.

The Washington Post cited the station’s news director, Ghazi Fesal, as saying he feared that Wazzan had been killed, based on phone calls her friends had received from insurgents apparently responsible for the abduction. CPJ is investigating the incident.

At least 26 journalists have been kidnapped by armed groups in Iraq since April 2004, when insurgents began targeting foreigners for abduction.