Five contractors kidnapped in Iraq are alive

The employer claim that the five Western security contractors, kidnapped a year ago in Iraq, are still alive and the authorities are exerting all efforts to secure their release.

The four Americans and an Austrian colleague employed by Kuwait-based Crescent Security Group were among 14 people kidnapped Nov. 16, 2006, by men in Iraqi police uniforms who ambushed a convoy they were escorting near the southern Iraqi border city of Safwan.

Crescent managing partner Franco Picco said the company has been working with the FBI to find the men. They are alive and "we do have an idea where they are."

The families of some of the men have complained in the past that the U.S. government has keep them in the dark about efforts to free the men.

The search has been difficult, but "we'll get the guys back," Picco said in a telephone call from Kuwait.

The last indication that the men were alive came in January, in a video recording showing all five speaking briefly and saying they were being treated well. Since then, State Department officials have indicated they believe the men are still alive, according to some family members.

At the height of Iraq's sectarian battle, between 2004 and 2006, several Westerners were taken hostage - most by Sunni Muslim insurgents, including al-Qaida in Iraq.

While some were killed and their deaths captured on videos posted on the Internet, others were freed.

Hundreds of Iraqis have also been kidnapped since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. The motives behind those abductions have ranged from revenge, to politics and ransom.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova