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Kuwaiti firm halts work in Iraq; Italian hostage executed

Dubai, August 27
The Kuwaiti firm which has seven truck drivers held hostage in Iraq, including three Indians, has decided to halt operations in the troubled country, bowing to the kidnappers’ condition for their release, it said today.

“The Kuwait Gulf and Link (KGL) has decided to halt activities in Iraq completely,” KGL spokeswoman Rana Abu Zaineh told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television station.

“We do not have at the moment any presence in Iraq,” she added.

Yesterday, a group calling itself the Secret Islamic Army (SIA) said in a statement that it would free the seven hostages it has been holding for more than a month, as soon as the company says it will no longer operate in Iraq.

The seven, three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian are all lorry drivers working for the Kuwaiti transport company. They were abducted on July 21, and threatened with execution, if the KGL did not end its work in Iraq. In addition to the withdrawal of the KGL from Iraq, the SIA also demanded the release of Iraqi prisoners held in Kuwait and in detention centres run by the USA.

Baghdad: Militants in Iraq killed Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni after Italy refused their demand to withdraw its troops from the country, the Pan-Arab television station Al-Jazeera reported early today.

The station received a video yesterday that showed Baldoni apparently being killed, but declined to show it out of sensitivity to its viewers, said Jihad Ballout, the station’s spokesman.

“Judging from the recording we received, it seems that the hostage takers carried out their threat to kill their hostage,” Ballout said.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi condemned the reported killing, but said Italian troops would remain in Iraq.

“There are no words to describe this inhuman act that with one blow wipes out centuries of civilization to bring us back to the dark ages of barbarity,” the premier said in a statement. “We will be faithful to the commitments taken with the Iraqi provisional government.”

The Italian Foreign Ministry had reported Baldoni missing since last Friday and said he was believed to be in Najaf, the holy city south of Baghdad that has been the site of heavy fighting for nearly three weeks. — AFP, AP

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