Monday, March 31, 2003

I hope he finds them but it would be great if he could also find bin Laden and Mullah Omar.

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Jesse Jackson to Aid Journalist Search

By FRANK ELTMAN, Associated Press Writer

MELVILLE, N.Y. - The Rev. Jesse Jackson (news - web sites) said Monday he has told the families of two missing Newsday journalists last seen in Baghdad that he would try to help track down their whereabouts.

Jackson, who has had success in negotiating the release of American prisoners in past conflicts, said relatives of Newsday correspondent Matthew McAllester, 33, and photographer Moises Saman, 29, asked him Sunday to help locate the two men.

"And I said I would do my very best," Jackson said. He said he had no plans to travel to the region, however.

Saman and McAllester have been out of contact since March 24, when they e-mailed their Long Island-based newspaper to say they would be filing material. Newsday editor Anthony Marro said in the paper's Saturday editions that he believes the two have been detained by the Iraqi government.

Molly Bingham, a freelance photographer from Louisville, Ky., and Danish freelance photographer Johan Rydeng Spanner also are unaccounted for in Iraq (news - web sites).

The Danish Press Photographer Association said Spanner was among four people arrested as a group in Baghdad. The association said he had sought press accreditation once inside Iraq, but had entered the country as a student.

In 1999, Jackson negotiated the release of three U.S. servicemen being held as prisoners of war in Yugoslavia. In 1991, he traveled to Baghdad and Iraqi-occupied Kuwait City and won the release of 47 U.S. citizens, many of whom were ill and had been under siege in the U.S. Embassy there for a month.

He has had similar successes in Syria and Cuba.

Jackson said he hopes to amass a delegation of religious leaders to help in securing the release of the journalists — if they indeed are being held — as well as U.S. prisoners of war and other people missing in Iraq.

"Each time I have gone to bring Americans home, it was always with a group of religious leaders who had contacts with religious leaders there," Jackson said. "When political forces are hostile, the religious orders usually maintain some rapport. I would hope that is the case here."


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