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Freed Australian says Iraqi militants not savages
Updated: 2004-10-20 09:53

An Australian journalist held hostage in Iraq for 24 hours before being released after his captors established his independence by searching for his name on the Internet said the militants who took him were not "savages".

John Martinkus, a reporter for Australia's SBS Television Dateline programme, was released unharmed at the weekend and arrived back in Australia's southern city of Melbourne late on Tuesday. "These guys ... (are) not stupid. They're fighting a war but they're not savages. They're not actually just killing people willy-nilly. They talk to you, they think about things," Martinkus told reporters at Melbourne airport.

"(From their perspective) there was a reason to kill (British hostage Ken) Bigley, there was a reason to kill the Americans; there was not a reason to kill me -- luckily I managed to convince them of that," he said.

Martinkus demanded an apology from Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who on Monday said the journalist had been taken hostage in a dangerous part of Baghdad to which he had been advised not to go.

"Alexander Downer doesn't know his geography very well. I was actually across the road from the Australian embassy when I was kidnapped. He should apologise to me, actually -- personally," Martinkus said.

SBS executive producer Mike Carey told local media Martinkus was released after his captors used popular Internet search engine Google to establish he was an independent reporter who did not support the U.S. presence in Iraq.

Two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, kidnapped in Iraq on Aug. 20 are believed to be still alive. The kidnappers have demanded France scrap a law banning the wearing of Muslim headscarves in state schools. France has refused.

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