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Kenya in exit cry

Nairobi, July 22 (Reuters): Kenya’s government spokesperson today urged its citizens to leave Iraq at once and pleaded with kidnappers to free three truck drivers from the east African country.

Ibrahim Khamis, Faiz Khamis Salim and Jalal Mohammed are among seven hostages being held by kidnappers who have threatened to behead them one by one unless their Kuwaiti transport company employer stops doing business in Iraq.

“We urge all Kenyans that may be in Iraq to leave at once,” spokesperson Alfred Mutua told a news conference. “Kenya has no troops in Iraq. We also do not have any Kenyan companies operating in Iraq,” Mutua said. “Kenya only sends troops to foreign countries under the auspices of the United Nations and only for peace keeping reasons.”

The spokesperson pleaded with the insurgents to free the Kenyan hostages so that they may be re-united with their families.

However, foreign minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere took a more cautious line on whether Kenyans should leave.

“It is really up to them. If they feel safe, then they can continue to make an honest living. I see no reason why they cannot stay if they feel safe,” he told a separate news conference.

Earlier, Mwakwere said he had appealed through friendly nations for the men’s release. He said the Kuwaiti transport company had also assured him it was doing all it could to prevent the kidnappers carrying out their threat. “I am satisfied and hopeful that they will be released,” the minister said.

The wives of the three said they had been in regular touch until last week with their husbands, who went to Kuwait last October and made frequent trips into Iraq.

“I have asked the government to help my husband. He is innocent. He is not a fighter,” Salim’s wife Hidaya Mohammed told reporters in the coastal city of Mombasa.

“I miss my dad so much. I plead with the government to save his life,” the couple’s 10-year-old son Jamil said.

The men are the first workers from sub-Saharan Africa to be kidnapped in Iraq. The guerrillas have demanded that Kenya withdraw its citizens from Iraq. Kenya says is not part of the US-led military coalition in Iraq but some of its nationals work as drivers and contractors.

Khamis’ wife, Esha Nyarimbo Mwandighi, said: “He predicted difficulties in his line of work but was determined to go ahead with it. He decided to stay despite the dangers to work for the sake of his family.”

The mother of four said: “I hope the government will intervene.... The family is in prayer. We hope we will see our husband and father again.”

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