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Two Swiss hostages freed in Iraq

Security forces are struggling to restore order to Iraq Keystone

Two Swiss nationals held hostage in Iraq for 48 hours have been released, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, said the two were abducted on Tuesday by an unknown group. They were freed on Thursday morning.

The foreign ministry added that the abduction had taken place in the south of the country and that the Swiss had been questioned about their work in Iraq.

According to the ministry, the head of the Swiss liaison office in Baghdad, Martin Aeschbacher, helped secure their release.

Speaking from Baghdad, Aeschbacher said the two Swiss – both of whom are employees of an international aid organisation – had been well treated by their Iraqi captors and had returned to work on Thursday morning.

Around 50 foreigners have been taken hostage in Iraq in the past few weeks. Most have subsequently been released unharmed.

Some 20 Swiss are currently resident in Iraq, most of them dual nationals. Four work for international humanitarian organisations.

Security risk

Calmy-Rey said Swiss citizens who had decided to remain in the country did so in full knowledge of the security risk.

“We would be relieved if they came home,” the foreign minister added.

News of the incident comes one week after the Swiss government said it would continue its work in Baghdad despite the recent spate of abductions of foreign workers.

Four people work at the Swiss mission in Baghdad: two diplomats and two employees of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Aeschbacher told swissinfo last week that no foreigners in the country could feel safe.

“I don’t think the Swiss are top of the [kidnappers’] list, but this doesn’t mean that we are safe from the people who are just interested in kidnapping foreigners – no matter where they’re from,” he said.

swissinfo with agencies

Two Swiss nationals were abducted by an unknown group in southern Iraq on Tuesday.

They were released unharmed on Thursday and returned to their work with an international agency.

The Swiss foreign ministry says it would be relieved if the 20 Swiss nationals in Iraq were to leave the country.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR