- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 31, 2004

BAGHDAD — Iraqi militants said yesterday they have kidnapped two Turks and threatened to behead them within 48 hours, the latest in the country’s unrelenting wave of abductions, even as efforts intensified to win the release of seven truck drivers taken captive by other insurgents.

In a videotape aired on Al Jazeera television, the Tawhid and Jihad group of Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi demanded the Turks’ employers leave Iraq. The video showed three masked, black-garbed gunmen standing behind two seated men holding various forms of identification, including what appeared to be Turkish passports.

Al Jazeera identified the men as Turkish truck drivers working for a Turkish company that delivers goods to U.S. forces in Iraq. The network said the militants threatened to decapitate the men if their demands were not met.

In another abduction, a Lebanese citizen was snatched in Baghdad early yesterday, a Lebanese Foreign Ministry official said. The victim’s Iraqi driver, who was snatched as well but later released, identified the Lebanese man as Vlado Abu Ghadi, director of the Lara Construction Company.

More than 70 foreigners have been kidnapped by insurgents in recent months in a campaign aimed at pushing out of the country international troops and companies backing U.S. troops and reconstruction efforts.

Mediators and officials expressed optimism yesterday for the release of seven hostages — three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian — held captive since July 21. An official from the Kuwait company that employs the men met tribal leaders acting as mediators to craft an offer to their captors, and India sent a senior diplomat to help in the talks.

The kidnappers have threatened to kill one of the hostages if their employers, Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Co., fail to meet their demands, including ending their work in Iraq.

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