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22 January 2005 -- China's Xinhua news agency is reporting that Beijing's embassy in Iraq has confirmed that eight Chinese citizens being held hostage in Iraq have been released.
The confirmation came after the appearance earlier today of a video showing an unidentified masked man shaking hands with the eight men and granting their release:
"The eight Chinese hostages are being freed after China advised its citizens not to travel to Iraq and they were unharmed and the Chinese government had not paid a ransom for their release," a voice on the tape said in Arabic.
The captors had earlier this week threatened to kill the hostages unless Beijing banned Chinese nationals from entering Iraq. China later warned its citizens to avoid travel to Iraq.
Elsewhere in Iraq, at least 11 people were killed in a suicide car bombing that detonated yesterday at a Shi'a wedding party near Al-Yussifiyah, south of Baghdad.
A second car bombing yesterday claimed at least 14 lives outside a Shi'a mosque in Baghdad, as worshippers were marking the Eid Al-Adha holiday.
The CNN news network reported that an Islamic website today posted a video showing the public decapitation of two Iraqis by militants with apparent ties to Jordanian-born Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi.
(Reuters/dpa/AFP)[For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".]