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French Version

Jordanian firm halts work in Iraq to win drivers' freedom

Trucking company boss aims to save lives of 3 employees

The owner of a Jordanian truck company announced Tuesday a halt to his firm's activities in Iraq in an effort to save the lives of three of his drivers abducted in the war-wracked country.

"I have decided to stop my firm's activity in Iraq to ensure the release of the three drivers," Abdullah Fady al-Masalmeh of Al-Safa company told AFP. "I am ready to do anything to secure their release."

Drivers Atta Haddad, Mahmoud Abu Zaytun and Jamal al-Shneyk were snatched by gunmen in Iraq on Nov. 2, while a fourth trucker was killed when his vehicle overturned as he tried to flee, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Masalmeh said he learnt of the abductions when he tried to phone one of them last week and was "surprised to hear a man tell me the drivers had been abducted and their pictures would be aired on television."

The abductor "told me that his group wants the Jordanian government to prevent Jordanian trucks from going to Iraq and demands as well that my company stop working with Iraq," Masalmeh said.

Masalmeh - who cooperates with an Iraqi firm in food distribution - said the abductors never called him back with any other demands and did not ask for a ransom.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Saturday that Jordan was closely monitoring developments through its embassy in Baghdad.

Abdel-Rahim al-Jamal, a regional head of the Jordanian truck drivers' union, said last week the drivers were abducted near the flashpoint city of Fallujah after unloading refrigerated goods in Iraq.

Following the abduction of a Jordanian businessman last month, the authorities advised Jordanian nationals against non-essential travel to Iraq, although they said the authorities could not prevent them.

Earlier this year Jordan secured the release of several of its citizens who had been abducted in Iraq through contacts with influential tribes and with the aid of family-paid ransoms

Beirut,11 15 2004
Redaction
The Daily Star
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