Friday, April 22, 2005

Iraq Group Threatens to Kill Romania Hostages - TV

Yahoo! News
Iraq Group Threatens to Kill Romania Hostages - TV

DUBAI (Reuters) - Insurgents gave Romania four days to withdraw its troops from Iraq in order to save the lives of three Romanian journalists kidnapped last month, Al Jazeera television reported on Friday.

"They gave the Romanian government four days from the date of the videotape to withdraw its forces from Iraq or they would kill them," the Arabic broadcaster said.

It broadcast a new video it had received, showing the two men and a woman who were abducted on March 28 in Baghdad.

"She called on the Romanian people to protest in order to pressure the Romanian government," Al Jazeera said.

The video separately showed a fourth hostage, Mohamad Munaf, the translator for the journalists, who has U.S., Romanian and Iraqi citizenship, as two men pointed guns at his head.

The channel said Munaf called on President Bush to intervene to ensure his release.

The video showed the hostage-takers' name as the previously unheard-of "Squadrons of Mu'adh bin Jebel," in reference to a figure from early Islamic history.

Romania has 800 troops with the U.S.-led force in Iraq and remains committed despite recent opinion polls showing 55 percent of Romanians want the troops to come home.

Analysts have said if the kidnappers demand a withdrawal, public pressure on the government will increase.

More than 150 foreigners have been seized in Iraq over the past year. Most were freed after negotiations or ransom but about a third were killed. Many more Iraqis have been abducted.