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12 Nepali hostages killed in Iraq
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 31
The fate of the Indian hostages in Iraq came into sharp focus as Iraqi militants today claimed to have executed 12 Nepali citizens, forcing the Government of India on a back foot.

External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh, talking to The Tribune tonight said the reported killing of 12 Nepali hostages in Iraq and the continued incarceration of three Indian hostages in Iraq were two different incidents and “not related”.

Asked if the killing of as many as 12 Nepali hostages would cast a shadow on the three Indians held hostage in Iraq since July 21, Mr Natwar Singh said: “I hope not. I don’t think that the two cases are related.”

On behalf of the Government and people of India, Mr Natwar Singh expressed “deep sorrow and anguish” over the reported execution of the Nepali hostages, saying the reported victims were innocents who were eking out a living.

The news of the execution of the 12 Nepali hostages, reported by an Islamist website which posted graphic footage of the victims, failed to evoke the necessary impact and a sense of urgency in South Block here.

Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed, who is incharge of the Gulf and also the Chairman of the Crisis Management Group (CMG) on the Iraq hostage crisis, was away in Trivandrum in view of the political developments in the state. Efforts of this correspondent to get his reaction on the Nepali hostages massacre could not bear any fruit as he did not come on the telephone.

The ill-fated Nepalis were taken hostage early this month as they entered Iraq to work as cooks and cleaners for a jordanian company.

The hostage-takers who identified themselves as the Ansar al Sunna said the Nepali citizens were kidnapped because they were cooperating with US troops in Iraq.

A statement put up on the website by the military committee of the Army of Ansar al-Sunna said: “We have carried out the sentence of God against 12 Nepalese who came from their country to fight the Muslims and to serve the Jews and the Christians... believing in Buddha as their God.”

The statement was accompanied by a video. The kidnappers also posted a series of pictures on the website. One picture showed two masked men, one in camouflage, holding down a hostage.

The men then appeared to slit his throat and hold the severed head high. Some other pictures showed a group of men lying face-down, bullet wounds apparently showing in the back.

There was no confirmation from the Nepalese authorities till this evening of the incident.



Chirac appeals for release of hostages

Sochi (Russia), August 31
French President Jacques Chirac renewed his appeal here today for the release of two French journalists held hostage in Iraq.

“I renew here my solemn appeal for the freedom” of the two journalists, Chirac said at a news conference following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The group has demanded that France rescind a controversial law due to go into effect this week banning the wearing of Muslim headscarves and other outward signs of religious affiliation in French state schools. — AFP



Hostages safe in Iraq, says govt

New Delhi, August 31
The government tonight said the three Indians held hostage in Iraq since July 21 were safe and in good health and “serious efforts” were on to secure their early release.

“We have every reason to believe that the Indian hostages are safe and in good health,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told PTI in response to a question in the wake of killing of 12 Nepalese hostages by an Iraqi militant group. — PTI


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