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Six foreign truck drivers threatened with beheading

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Six foreign truck drivers abducted in Iraq, threatened with beheading
By Ravi Nessman, Associated Press, 7/21/2004 16:21

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) Militants took six foreign truck drivers hostage and threatened Wednesday to behead them unless their company ends its business in Iraq, and their countries India, Egypt and Kenya pull all their citizens out.

The threat came as militants launched a rocket attack on a Baghdad hospital, killing two people, and set off a car bomb in the capital that killed four.

In the city of Ramadi west of Baghdad, Marines engaged in an hours long gunbattle with insurgents; hospital officials said five Iraqis were killed, many when U.S. forces bombed a house. A roadside bomb north of Baghdad killed one U.S. 1st Infantry Division soldier early Wednesday, pushing the death toll of U.S. forces in Iraq to 900 since the start of the war.

The threat to behead the hostages and separate warnings against Bulgarian, Polish and Japanese troops is the latest development in a violent campaign to scare off foreigners, who play a vital role in supporting the new U.S.-backed government and in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Iraqi and U.S. officials had warned of a potential surge in threats and hostage-taking when the Philippines withdrew its 51-troop contingent from Iraq on Monday, giving in to the demands of militants holding a Filipino truck driver. The driver, Angelo dela Cruz, was released Tuesday.

A militant group calling itself ''The Holders of the Black Banners,'' announced Wednesday it had taken two Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian hostage, and said it would behead a captive every 72 hours beginning Saturday night if their countries do not announce their intentions to withdraw troops and citizens from Iraq.

None of those countries is part of the 160,000-member U.S.-led coalition; however, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi appealed last week to India and Egypt to send in troops.

''We have warned all the countries, companies, businessmen and truck drivers that those who deal with American cowboy occupiers will be targeted by the fires of the Mujahedeen,'' read a statement from the group that was obtained by The Associated Press. ''Here you are once again transporting goods, weapons and military equipment that backs the U.S. Army.''

In a separate threat, a previously unknown group calling itself al-Qaida's European branch posted a message on an Islamic Web site promising deadly attacks in Bulgaria and Poland if the two countries do not withdraw their troops from Iraq.

The group, calling itself the Tawhid Islamic Group, said Bulgaria and Poland will ''pay the price'' just as the United States and Spain did, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington and deadly train explosions in Madrid in March of this year.

During a recent hostage crisis, Bulgaria refused demands to pull its 480 troops out of Iraq, and Polish Deputy Defense Minister Janusz Zemke said Wednesday that withdrawing troops would be a ''terrible mistake'' that would only encourage terrorism.

Another militant group on Tuesday threatened Japan's 500 troops here. A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday that Tokyo would not comply.

More than 60 foreigners have been taken hostage in recent months in Iraq, where thousands of foreigners toil as contract workers for coalition forces, in crucial reconstruction jobs or as truck drivers hauling cargo for private companies.

The six foreigners threatened Wednesday were truck drivers working for a Kuwaiti company, the militants said. The group warned that every Kuwaiti company dealing with Americans ''will be dealt with as an American.''

In photos provided to AP, six of the hostages were shown standing behind three seated, masked gunmen. One of the hostages held a paper with the typed names of seven men presumably six of them the hostages their nationalities and other personal details. The paper was stamped July 20, and the words ''Universal Services'' were handwritten on top.

The names on the paper were Ibrahim Khamis, Salm Faiz Khamis, Jalal Awadh, all from Kenya; Antaryami, Tilak Raj, Sukdev Singh, all from India; and Mohammed Ali Sanad, from Egypt.

In a video broadcast on the Arab-language television station Al-Arabiya, a hostage identifying himself as Sanad called on his company to pull out of Iraq.

''They will chop off our heads,'' he said. ''Who will feed my family, my brothers and sisters?''

Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said Kenya has no troops or companies in Iraq, but there were hundreds of Kenyans working for companies in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

3 kidnapped in kabul { October 29 2004 }
6 egyptians 2 iraqis kidnapped in iraq { September 24 2004 }
Afghan militants threaten united nations hostages { November 1 2004 }
Aid worker hassan believed slain in video
Alqaeda says kills egypt envoy in iraq
Alqaeda website shows egyptian diplomat kidnapped { July 6 2005 }
Brits rescue peace activists held hostage in iraq
Egyptian diplomat kidnapped in iraq { July 23 2004 }
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
Three members of allawi family abducted { November 10 2004 }
Video of 11 iraqi soliders executed posted on web
Video on web site shows beheading of man

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