Arafat helped free US scribes jailed in Iraq | india | Hindustan Times
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Arafat helped free US scribes jailed in Iraq

Two journalists of a US-based daily, who went missing last week while covering the war in Iraq, were released by the Iraqi authorities.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2003 12:38 IST

Two journalists of a US-based daily, who went missing last week while covering the war in Iraq, were released by the Iraqi authorities apparently on the intervention of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Correspondent Matthew McAllester, 33, and photographer Moises Saman, 29, - both of the New York newspaper Newsday - were released on Tuesday along with two other journalists freelance American photographers Molly Bingham and Johan Rydeng Spanner, a Danish photographer.

"McAllester and Saman may owe their freedom in large part to the intervention of Arafat", Ed Abington, a former US consul general in Jerusalem who is now a Washington, DC-based adviser to the Palestine National Authority, said.

Abington said he had spoken twice with Arafat over telephone in the past few days and that Arafat had agreed to help try free the journalists.

"Arafat then instructed one of his former ambassadors to Baghdad, Azama Al-Ahmad, to contact the head of Iraqi military intelligence, who confirmed the journalists were being held and then apparently helped order their release", he said.

Newsday editors had worked frantically to win their release, reaching out to everyone from the Vatican to Iraq's Ambassador to United Nations to Arafat.

The reporters crossed over to Jordan later in the day from where McAllester telephoned his paper to say that they are safe and in good health.

"We are fine. We are well," McAllester said in a telephone conversation with Newsday editors as he and Saman waited at customs to enter Jordan.