October 18, 2008

Israeli Hostages Freed in Caribbean

Four Israeli nationals held hostage on the island of Turks and Caicos by Chinese laborers were freed Saturday after their company agreed to pay a ransom.

The hostages were released after successful negotiations between their captors and the Israeli firm Ashtrom Engineering and Construction, Ynetnews.com reported Saturday.

Nine of the Israelis who had been held by the laborers were released Thursday night. Some of the freed Israelis have agreed to remain on the island.

"All of the Israelis were freed," the company said. "Some of them stayed on the island because of work requirements, but there is nothing preventing any of the Israelis from leaving the island. There are many Chinese laborers waiting on the island for technical or logistical solutions to their problems, and they must be taken care of -- regardless of the kidnapping crisis that was resolved today."

In exchange for the hostages' release the laborers demanded the money promised to them by a Chinese company that hired them for the project. The project was put on hold after the collapse of an American bank.

Company officials said every Chinese employee invested $15,000 in order to take part in the tourism project. When the project collapsed, the Israelis offered the Chinese their salary and travel fare back to China, but the workers demanded a return of their original $15,000 fee.