Three hostages released in Iraq

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The releases came as a leading Iraqi religious leader warned Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to tone down his pro-US rhetoric for the sake of three Italian abductees who have been held for more than 10 days.

Two Swiss nationals were released by an unknown group this morning after being held hostage for 48 hours, Switzerland’s Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said.

Meanwhile a Palestinian diplomat told AFP Nabil Yaacub Razzuq, an Arab Israeli kidnapped earlier this month, had been freed by his captors and was in good health.

An extremist group calling itself Ansar Al-Din has claimed responsibility for their abduction, saying the captives were Israeli agents and demanding their exchange for all Iraqis held by the US-led coalition.

Coalition officials initially said there were some 40 foreign hostages from 12 countries being held in Iraq by militants trying to exert political pressure on US allies in the country.