Two Russian hostages were released this afternoon in Latifiya, fifty kilometers south of Baghdad.
Russian officials were summoned to the country house of Qassem al-Suweidan, High Sheikh of the Al-Janabi tribe. A motorcade duly came, led by Alexander Kinshchak, Russian Charge d'Affaires ad interim, and managers of the Interenergoservice, Russian company which employs the captives. Sheikh Qassem appeared half an hour after the Russian bosses, the hostages-Alexander Gordienko and Andrei Mescheryakov-with him.
The Latifiya drama was rooted in the foreign occupation of Iraq, tribal sheikhs and public activists said to Novosti.
"No one can say a harsh word about Russians here or elsewhere in Iraq. We remember Soviet assistance-but we Iraqis have grown bitter with a war on, and foreign occupation. Many of us are out for vengeance to Americans for our dead near and dear," said Sheikh Ibrahim Hussein al-Janabi.
The Russian captives were released thanks to Russian diplomats' intense negotiations with spokesmen of many Iraqi political and religious forces, the Governing Council and the coalition administration.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18