- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

BAGHDAD — A video posted on a Web site yesterday showed the beheading of a man identified as American construction contractor Eugene Armstrong. The militant group led by Abu Musab Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the slaying and said another hostage — either an American or a Briton — would be killed in 24 hours.

In other violence, gunmen in Baghdad assassinated two clerics from a powerful Sunni Muslim group opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq.

U.S. warplanes struck in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, killing two persons, and a car-bomb attack in Mosul in the north — the 32nd car bombing in Iraq this month — killed three persons. Insurgents attacked a U.S. patrol, killing an American soldier, near Sharqat, 168 miles north of Baghdad.

The video of the beheading surfaced soon after the expiration of a 48-hour deadline set earlier by Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad group for the beheading of the three employees of a construction company abducted Thursday in Baghdad — Mr. Armstrong, American Jack Hensley and Briton Kenneth Bigley.

A militant whose voice resembled Zarqawi’s read a statement in the video that the next hostage would be killed in 24 hours unless all female Muslim prisoners are released from U.S. military jails.

In Washington, a U.S. official said Mr. Armstrong’s body had been recovered. The taped beheading appears to be of Mr. Armstrong, but the CIA is still reviewing the tape to be sure, the official said.

The militant on the video called President Bush “a dog” and addressed him, saying, “Now, you have people who love death just like you love life. Killing for the sake of God is their best wish, getting to your soldiers and allies are their happiest moments, and cutting the heads of the criminal infidels is implementing the orders of our Lord.”

Tawhid and Jihad — Arabic for “monotheism and holy war” — has claimed responsibility for at least six hostages, including Mr. Armstrong and another American, Nicholas Berg, who was abducted in April.

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