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Kidnappers free journalist in Iraq

Garen 'very thankful' to those who worked for his release


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Micah Garen, shown here in an undated identification photo, says he was treated well by his abductors.
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The release of a kidnapped journalist.

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Iraq
Najaf

NAJAF, Iraq (CNN) -- American journalist Micah Garen was released in Nasiriya and was in U.S. hands late Sunday after being kidnapped by insurgents in the southern Iraq city more than a week ago.

Garen, 36, was kidnapped August 13 along with his Iraqi translator, Amir Doshe, in a busy Nasiriya market. Doshe also was released, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

In an interview Sunday on the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera, Garen said he had been treated well during his captivity.

A group calling itself the Martyrs Brigade had threatened to kill him within 48 hours if Americans did not leave Najaf. (Full story)

The Mehdi Army -- fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- has been battling Iraqi and U.S. forces around the city's Imam Ali Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam, for two weeks.

State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said Garen was at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, had been given a quick medical examination and appeared to be in good condition.

In the Al-Jazeera interview, Garen said he had been taking pictures in Nasiriya with a small camera when he was accosted and taken prisoner.

"I had a camera, and people didn't understand what I was doing," he said.

Garen, who works for New York-based Four Corners Media, was working on a documentary about archaeological sites and antiquities endangered by the war.

The international media association Reporters Without Borders and other journalistic organizations appealed to al-Sadr to help win Garen's release.

Aous al-Khaffaji, al-Sadr's Nasiriya office manager, also appealed to Garen's captors to release him.

Garen, a French citizen who also carries a U.S. passport, said he was "very thankful for everyone who worked on ensuring my safety and my release," and he added that he was "grateful to the Sadr people."

A videotape broadcast Wednesday on Al-Jazeera showed Garen surrounded by armed, masked men. A video broadcast Friday showed Garen reading a statement.

"I'm an American journalist in Iraq and I've been asked to deliver a message from the Martyrs Brigade who want the American people to work on ending the bloodshed in Najaf. I'm held in captivity and I'm being treated well," Garen said in Friday video.


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