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Japanese south koreans kidnapped by iraqis { April 8 2004 }

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Shiites control parts of 3 cities; Japanese, South Koreans kidnapped

Canadian Press

Thursday, April 08, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Shiite Muslim militias held partial control Thursday over two southern Iraqi cities, the top U.S. general in Iraq said, while Sunni insurgents killed a U.S. Marine in the battle for Fallujah. In escalating violence, gunmen kidnapped three Japanese and eight South Korean civilians.

In a videotape aired on Al-Jazeera television, armed militants threatened to kill the blindfolded Japanese hostages unless Tokyo withdrew its troops from Iraq.

Three explosions rocked central Baghdad, with smoke rising from the Green Zone - the sealed-off neighborhood where the U.S.-led coalition has its headquarters. The military did not immediately report casualties.

Iraq's interior minister, who leads police and security forces, resigned at the request of top U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer, to maintain balance between Sunni and Shiite factions on the governing council. It was unclear if his resignation was also connected with the failure of Iraqi police to confront insurgents that coalition forces are battling on two fronts.

- Three Japanese civilians and eight South Koreans were kidnapped in Iraq on Thursday, according to media reports.

The Arabic TV station al-Jazeera aired video showing two Japanese men and one woman who were blindfolded. It reported that the kidnappers had threatened to kill the hostages unless Japan withdrew its forces from southern Iraq.

The South Koreans were detained by unidentified "armed men," but one was later released, the South Korean Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unnamed Foreign Ministry official in Seoul. The report gave no further details.

The Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press it did not know who was responsible for the capture of the South Koreans.

The abductions dramatically raises pressure on the governments of Japan and South Korea, which have both gone against strong public opinion in their respective countries over their involvement in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

In Tokyo, lawmakers said the Japanese were kidnapped by a terrorist-related group, according to the Japanese news agency Kyodo.

A videotape aired by Al-Jazeera and shown by Japan's NHK television showed three Japanese identified as two journalists and an aid worker.

The Japanese were blindfolded and surrounded by gunmen. The video showed the hostages' passports, confirming their nationality.

Japan has sent several hundred ground troops to Iraq on a noncombat mission to help rebuild the country.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been one of the strongest backers of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a stance that has raised concern Japanese troops could be targeted by insurgents in that country.

The Japanese were taken by a group identifying itself as the "Mujahedeen Squadrons," which Al-Jazeera said gave a three-day ultimatum for Japan to announce it will withdraw its troops or they would be killed.

"Three of your sons have fallen into our hands," the Al-Jazeera announcer said, quoting a statement he said came with the video tape. "We offer you two choices: either pull out your forces, or we will burn them alive. We give you three days starting the day this tape is broadcast."

South Korea plans to deploy 3,600 troops to Iraq, but the deteriorating situation in Iraq has rattled the South Korean public in recent days.

The Canadian Press 2004

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Alqaeda website shows egyptian diplomat kidnapped { July 6 2005 }
Brits rescue peace activists held hostage in iraq
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Egyptians and iraqis kidnapped { September 25 2004 }
Filipino hostage released in iraq after pullout { July 20 2004 }
Freed egyptian says treated well by iraqi captors
French journalist freed in iraq after 5 months
Hostage begs britain to pull its troops out { October 23 2004 }
Imprisoned women not freed as tensions grow
Iraqi militants free two hostages
Italian journalist held hostage pleads for life { February 16 2005 }
Italy horror at hostage execution
Japanese hostages freed { April 15 2004 }
Japanese south koreans kidnapped by iraqis { April 8 2004 }
Japanese studying depleted uranium taken hostage { April 12 2004 }
Jeffrey ake from indiana pleads for his life { April 14 2005 }
Kidnapped aid workers in afghanistan released
Kidnapped polish woman freed
Kidnappers snatch 2 americans 1 briton from homes
Marine in kidnap video charged with desertion { December 10 2004 }
Militants release video of japanese hostage { October 27 2004 }
Peace group kidnapped in iraq { October 2005 }
Philippines troops out of iraq
Ransom from italians seen as fueling crisis { September 29 2004 }
Second hostage killed in iraq
Six foreign truck drivers threatened with beheading
Tape of bigley decapitation posted on web
Third beheading was south korean who spoke arabic
Three headless bodies discovered north of baghdad
Three iraqi kurd hostages beheaded
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Video of 11 iraqi soliders executed posted on web
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