Iraqi forces free kidnapped journalist Richard Butler

The British CBS reporter had been held for two months in the southern Iraq city of Basra.

By , Reuters

A British journalist held for two months by kidnappers in the southern Iraqi city of Basra was rescued on Monday by Iraqi forces sweeping through the city in a crackdown on militants, the Iraqi military said.

Richard Butler, a photographer on assignment for CBS News, appeared to be in good health and high spirits after his release.

Unknown militants had seized Mr. Butler and his interpreter from their hotel in the center of Basra on Feb. 10. The interpreter was freed within days.

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"The Iraqi Army stormed the house and overcame my guards and then burst through the door," said Butler, smiling broadly and surrounded by Iraqi officials in pictures shown on Al Iraqiya state television.

"I had my hood on, which I had to have on all the time. And they shouted something at me and I pulled my hood off."

"We are incredibly grateful that our colleague, Richard Butler, has been released and is safe," CBS said in a statement.

The rescue was a triumph for Iraqi forces, embarrassed last month by a hasty crackdown against militants in Basra that triggered fighting across the south and Baghdad while failing to dislodge masked militiamen from the streets.

But the news came after a night of renewed clashes in Baghdad's Sadr City slum that dashed hopes of its 2 million residents of a letup in three weeks of fighting.

Angry mourners carried a coffin containing the body of a man killed in the clashes through the slum's streets. A hospital said seven wounded casualties had arrived overnight. Residents swept out the rubble from freshly damaged buildings.

US forces said they had killed six gunmen in an overnight battle in eastern Baghdad, returning fire with M1 tanks and helicopter gunships at fighters who attacked a patrol with rocket-propelled grenades.

Although the US forces did not identify the location of the battle, the unit they described operates near Sadr City.

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