May 19, 2006

Family says UAE diplomat held in Iraq to be freed

DUBAI (Reuters) - The family of a United Arab Emirates
diplomat kidnapped in Iraq said they had heard he would be
freed on Friday but they had no official word of his release,
Arab television stations reported.

The UAE said its charge d'affaires in Iraq had flown home
to report on the abduction. His recall was a main demand raised
by the group who kidnapped the diplomat, Naji al-Noaimi, in
Baghdad on Tuesday.

Mohammed al-Noaimi, the brother of the kidnapped diplomat,
told Al Jazeera television by telephone: "Up to now there is no
official confirmation...and we have had no contact with Naji."

He spoke after another television station, Al Arabiya, said
the diplomat had been freed and was on his way to Baghdad
airport to return home.

The source of the family's information was not immediately

UAE officials contacted by Reuters declined to comment on
the reports.

The UAE's state news agency WAM said the charge d'affaires,
Ali al-Kaabi, returned home "after being recalled to report to
foreign ministry officials about developments ... (regarding)
Noaimi and study with them measures to ensure his safety."

Noaimi was abducted after a short drive from the embassy to
visit a colleague. His driver was shot in the kidnapping and
later died of his wounds.

Al Jazeera aired a video on Thursday, apparently of Noaimi,
from a group calling itself Islam's Banner, and said the group
had demanded the UAE withdraw its charge d'affaires and close
the UAE-based Iraqi television channel al-Fayha within 24

The footage showed a man, apparently Noaimi, standing next
to a wall. No audio could be heard.

The kidnapping and killing of Arab diplomats and embassy
workers over the past year by Islamist militants has worsened
the already frosty relations between Iraq's U.S.-backed
Shi'ite-led government and Sunni-dominated Arab states.