Missing British journalist and colleague safe in Jordan

LONDON - A missing British journalist Matthew McAllester, who worked for US magazine Newsday, has been found safe and well in Jordan after it was feared he had been arrested by Iraqi secret police.

McAllester, who had been missing for a week in Iraq, telephoned last night to tell his family that he was alive and out of harm's way.

McAllester, 33, disappeared from the Baghdad Palestine International Hotel, where he had been staying, on Monday after a reported visit to his room by Iraqi police. Baghdad officials suspected they were American spies.

McAllester had been with his 29-year-old Palestinian photographer Moises Saman, who is also safe. In a telephone conversation with Newsday, McAllester said: "We are fine. We are well."

They were arrested and handcuffed and taken to Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, where they were kept until early yesterday, when Iraqi authorities then drove them the 300 miles to the Jordanian border.

Newsday had gone to extraordinary lengths in an attempt to secure the freedom of the two, with contact made to the Vatican, the United Nations and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Newsday editor Anthony Marro said: "There are a great many people in many different countries who worked very hard to try to make this happen, and we're deeply grateful to all of them.”

Despite terrible conditions during their week's stay with Iraqi police, the two said they were not mistreated or physically abused. "At times, it was extremely close," Saman told Newsday. "The cells would kind of rumble."

Two other missing journalists, Molly Bingham, a freelance photographer from Louisville, Kentucky, and a Danish freelance photographer, Johan Rydeng Spanner, were also detained with the two Newsday staffers and were also were released into Jordan.

The release follows the deaths of three journalists so far. At the weekend, Channel 4 journalist Gaby Rado fell to his death from a hotel roof in the northern Iraqi town of Sulaymaniyah; ITN's Terry Lloyd died near Basra; and Australian journalist Paul Moran, a cameraman working for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, was killed by car bomb explosion near the camp of the northern Iraq-based Kurdish militant group Ansar al-Islam, which is linked to Al-Qaeda.

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