Kidnapped British journalist freed in Iraq

Richard Butler, the British journalist held in captivity in Basra for more than two months, was freed in a dramatic rescue operation by Iraqi forces today.

Colleagues spoke of their delight after Butler, who was seized alongside his interpreter on 10 February while working on an assignment for US broadcaster CBS, was reportedly handed over to British forces.

He was pictured smiling and apparently in good health amid chaotic scenes on Al Iraqiya television.

He said: “The Iraqi army stormed the house and overcame my guards.

“They burst through the door and I had my hood on, which I had to have on all the time, and they just shouted something at me and I pulled my hood off and they ran me down the road.”

In a short statement CBS said: “We are incredibly grateful that our colleague, Richard Butler, has been released and is safe.

“He is apparently in good condition.”

Butler was found during a military operation in the Jibiliya area of Basra, a one-time stronghold of Shiite militias.

Iraqi forces have recently started house-to-house searches for arms, weapons, drugs and criminal elements in several parts of the city. The military said it has uncovered an improvised explosive device factory, along with significant arms caches and numerous roadside bombs, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

The rescue follows the launch last month of major Iraqi military operations to rid the city of militia influence.

His interpreter was released earlier.

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