M A I N   N E W S

Pak hostages executed
Kidnappers free Iraqi driver

Baghdad, July 29
A militant group holding two Pakistani contractors hostage said it had killed the men, but freed their Iraqi driver, according to the Pan-Arab television station Al-Jazeera.

The group, calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, announced in a video on Monday that it had kidnapped two Pakistanis working for the US forces and had sentenced them to death because their country was discussing sending troops to Iraq.

In a new videotape sent to Al-Jazeera, the men said they had carried out their threat. The newsreader said the video showed the corpses of the two men. The station declined to show the footage.

The kidnapped men were identified by Pakistan as engineer Raja Azad, (49), and driver Sajad Naeem, (29), both of whom worked for the Kuwait-based Al-Tamimi group in Baghdad.

The group said it had released the Iraqi driver, Omar Khaled Selman, after it was clear that he had been duped by the Pakistanis. The militants released a video showing Selman describing his ordeal.

"After interrogation, they charged us all with death penalty, and then they postponed mine and carried out the death penalty for the two Pakistanis because it was clear that they were spies," he said.

MUZAFARRABAD: The family of one of the two Pakistanis reportedly executed by Iraqi militants, blamed President Musharraf, saying that he could have saved their lives by ruling out sending troops to Iraq.

"If the government of Pakistan had tried, this tragedy could've been averted," said a grieving Abdul Razaq, whose brother-in-law Raja Azad was killed after five days in captivity.

"The government of Pakistan should have categorically said it would not send troops to Iraq," he said on phone from Rawalakot, a small village in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday condemned as "shameful" the killing of two of its kidnapped nationals in Iraq and charged that the captors went ahead with their plans to execute them despite assurances from Islamabad that no decision had been taken to send troops to Iraq.

It also urged Pakistanis working in Iraq to pull out and asked those who wanted to visit that country for pilgrimage to differ their plans.

"Despite informing the captors that Pakistan has not taken any decision to send its troops to Iraq, they killed Pakistani workers, which is condemnable and shameful," Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri told the National Assembly, which adopted a unanimous resolution denouncing the Islamic Army of Iraq. — Agencies



Threat to kill one hostage today

A masked man points an M-16 automatic rifle at the head of an Indian hostage
In a video tape given to foreign news organisations on Thursday, a masked man (hidden) points an M-16 automatic rifle at the head of an Indian hostage, who was wearing orange clothing. Kidnappers holding seven foreign truck drivers hostage in Iraq threatened to kill one of them on Friday if they received no response to their demands. — Reuters photo

Baghdad, July 29
A militant group holding seven foreign truck drivers hostage, including three Indians, today said it would kill one of the men within 24 hours if its demands were not immediately met, according to a video shown on Al-Arabiya television.

The video showed a masked man pointing a rifle at one of the hostages, who was wearing an orange garment similar to ones worn by previous foreign hostages that were killed.

The group, calling itself ''The Holders of the Black Banner,'' said last week it had kidnapped three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian and would begin beheading them last Saturday if the truck drivers' employer did not cease business in Iraq and the hostages' countries did not withdraw all their citizens from Iraq.

In other videos, the kidnappers added to their demands, but also appeared to extend the deadline.

The gunman in the video today said that no one had contacted the group so it would kill one of the hostages at 7 p.m. (08.30 p.m. IST) on Friday because they are ''fighters who have supported the infidel occupier by transporting their supplies.''

The group did not specify which hostage it would kill.

The gunman said the truckers' governments had ignored the threat against the men, and he scolded the Egyptian government for working for the release of an Egyptian diplomat seized last week and freed on Monday, but doing little for the Egyptian driver.

Egyptian diplomats in Baghdad declined to comment. The men all worked as truck drivers for Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Co., which said it would take ``all necessary measures'' to save their lives.

The hostages were identified as Antaryami, Tilak Raj and Sukhdev Singh, of India; Ibrahim Khamis, Salm Faiz Khamis and Jalal Awadh, of Kenya; and Mohammed Ali Sanad, of Egypt.

More than 70 foreigners have been taken hostage in Iraq in recent months. The threat today came just hours after an insurgent group linked to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said it had kidnapped a Somali truck driver and threatened to behead him if his Kuwaiti company didn't stop working here. — AP



Indians advised to defer visits to Iraq
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 29
The Union Government has advised Indians to “defer visits” to Iraq for the “time being” because of the serious security situation in that country.

The advisory assumes significances amid reports that two Pakistani hostages have been killed in Iraq even as efforts are on to secure the safe passage of three Indians being held hostage there.

Even though Islamabad said it had been informed of the execution of two of its nationals, it was awaiting official confirmation. This has come as a shock to the families of the Indian hostages in Una and Ropar.

India has expressed concern about the execution of the two Pakistanis which was the handiwork of another radical group in Iraq.

At the same time, the kidnappers of the Indian hostages have reportedly put forth a fresh demand, adding that a new dimension to the negotiations currently under way for their release.

Minister of state for external affairs E Ahamed dealing with the hostage crisis said the government had no information about the reported new demand by the kidnappers.

Reports from Baghdad, however, said the kidnappers had demanded that New Delhi assure them directly that the three men held hostage had nothing to do with the “occupational forces.”

The group holding the Indians hostage had appointed a tribal leader Shaikh Hisham al Dulaymi as their mediator. The kidnappers calling themselves “The Holder of the Black Banner” want an assurance in writing that these were poor people who went to Kuwait in search of jobs and were not working for the occupational forces.

Mr Ahamed maintained that the government was not aware of such a demand but “if there is one we will discuss it.” Simultaneously, the Indian Embassy in Kuwait has stressed that Indians should not make attempts to cross into Iraq illegally.


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