Italy Rejoices As Aid Workers Come Home

Celebrations erupted throughout Italy as the two Italian female hostages held in captivity for three weeks in Iraq returned to their home country on Tuesday night. A senior Italian politician says he believes a ransom of $1m or more was paid for the release of the two aid workers.

A Yemeni judge sentenced two men to death and four others to prison terms ranging from five to 10 years Wednesday for orchestrating the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, an attack blamed on Osama bin Laden's terror network, news wires report.

IRAQ NEWS

Nation Rejoices as Women Return Italy welcomed home with joy and relief the two foreign aid workers whose abduction in Iraq three weeks ago and release Tuesday earned them the status of national heroines. (Chicago Tribune)

Italy 'Paid $1m to Free Hostages' A senior Italian politician says he believes a ransom of $1m or more was paid for the release of two female Italian aid workers kidnapped in Iraq. (BBC)

Ransom Payments Seen Fueling Iraq's Hostage Crisis The release of two Italian aid workers in Iraq has raised hopes other hostages may soon be freed, but reports that a large ransom was paid may only feed the burgeoning hostage crisis. (Reuters)

Caged British Hostage in Iraq Appeals to Blair A British hostage in Iraq made an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Tony Blair to help free him in a videotape aired on Wednesday that left relatives relieved to see him alive but appalled at his caged conditions. (Reuters)

Violence Threatens Iraq Elections U.S. warplanes struck a suspected insurgent hideout in rebel-held Fallujah on Tuesday and U.S. tanks and aircraft bombarded areas of northeastern Baghdad, stepping up military operations against guerrillas. (Moscow Times)

Blair Denies He Led Britain to War with False Justification Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday denied leading Britain into war on a false prospectus, despite intelligence on the threat posed by Iraq being wrong. (Boston Herald)

Allies Split Over Iraq Polls Jordanian King Abdullah's warning that it will be impossible to organise elections in Iraq that would not be open to question will not be welcomed in Washington, where the Bush administration is insisting that elections will be held in Iraq before the end of January as planned. (BBC )

Iraq Debate Already Hot as Rivals Prepare for Test President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry both face intensifying challenges to their credibility on Iraq as they approach Thursday's potentially pivotal debate on foreign policy. (LA Times)

Iraq Study Sees Rebels' Attacks as Widespread Over the past 30 days, more than 2,300 attacks by insurgents have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq, in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population center outside the Kurdish north, according to comprehensive data compiled by a private security company with access to military intelligence reports and its own network of Iraqi informants. (NY Times)

Iraqi Intelligence Officers Killed Five Iraqi police intelligence officers have been killed in a raid on a house in northern Basra. (Al Jazeera)

THE WAR ON TERROR

INVESTIGATIONS

Yemen Two Sentenced to Death for Cole Bombing A Yemeni judge sentenced two men to death and four others to prison terms ranging from five to 10 years Wednesday for orchestrating the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, an attack blamed on Osama bin Laden's terror network. (ABCNEWS)

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