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Germany

German Hostages Enroute to Berlin

Two freed German engineers who were held hostage in Iraq for more than three months left for Berlin Wednesday, security guards at the German embassy in Baghdad said.

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Bräunlich and Nitschke are expected to arrive in Germany around 2 p.m. local time

"The two hostages were taken in three SUVs this morning to the airport," a security guard at the embassy told AFP. Officials at the embassy declined to comment.

Rene Bräeunlich, 32, and Thomas Nitzschke, 28, were freed Tuesday after being held for more than three months in captivity.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in the midst of a state visit to Chile, said he had spoken to the men, Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Bräunlich, and that they were well, considering the circumstances, the German news agency DPA reported.

Leipzigs Oberbuergermeister Burghard Jung zeigt ein Flugblatt mit der Information ueber die Freilassung der Geiseln im Irak

"The hostages are free, thank God," reads the sign held by Leipzig's mayor, Burkhard Jung

"I am happy to tell you that the two kidnapped Leipzigers, Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Bräunlich, are, as of today, free again," Steinmeier said from Santiago de Chile.

"After more than three months of inhumane conditions, they are now safely in German hands in Iraq and will, according to the current plans, return to Germany tomorrow."

"I am very relieved and happy that the German hostages in Iraq have been freed," Chancellor Angela Merkel said of the men's release.

So far, it appears that the men were let go as a result of negotiations with the hostage-takers. The German foreign ministry had established a task force devoted to the release of the hostages shortly after they were kidnapped.


It was not clear whether ransom money had been paid. In a press conference on Tuesday evening, task force member Reinhard Silberberg thanked those who had contributed to the men being let go. He said that, as in the past, the government would not comment on the circumstances of their release.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier continually called for calm during the hostage ordeal

Nitzschke, 28, and Bräunlich, 32, were kidnapped in northern Iraq while working for the German engineering firm Cryotec.

Their kidnappers circulated a series of three videos during the men's period of captivity in which the hostage-takers laid out demands for their release.

In the last video, which appeared on the Internet on April 9, Nitzschke spoke, calling for help. "We can't stand it much longer," he said. The men had been threatened with execution.

Their captors, a group called Ansar al-Tawheed wal Sunna (Followers of Unity and Prophetic Tradition), demanded the release of all Iraqis held in US-run prisons and told Germany to stop giving help to the US and Iraqi authorities there.


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