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2 German hostages freed in Iraq

BERLIN, May 2 (UPI) -- German engineers Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braunlich, who were taken hostage in Iraq in January, have been freed, Germany's foreign minister said Tuesday.

It appeared that the men, who had been working for German engineering firm Cryotec in northern Iraq, were released as a result of negotiations with their hostage-takers, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

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It was not known if ransom was paid for the release of the men from Leipzig, the report said.

Ansar al-Tawheed wal Sunna, which translates as "Followers of Unity and Prophetic Tradition," claimed responsibility for the Jan. 24 abductions.

Nitzschke called for help in an April Internet video, saying, "We can't stand it much longer."

During a visit to Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the men had been freed.

"After more than three months of inhumane conditions, they are now safely in German hands in Iraq" and will be returned to Germany, Steinmeier said.

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