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Russia Calls on US to Stop Military Actions - Fallujah
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:13 pm    Post subject: Russia Calls on US to Stop Military Actions - Fallujah Reply to topic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Russia Calls on US to Stop Military Actions

Posted: 04/10

From: Mathaba

Statement of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Concerning the Situation in Iraq:

The mounting crisis in Iraq is arousing an ever greater concern.

Reports coming in from that country suggest numerous casualties resulting from combat actions between coalition forces and the resistance. The humanitarian situation has become sharply exacerbated.

The civilian population in areas of the fiercest battles, in particular, in the blockaded city of Fallujah, has found itself in a particularly difficult position. Hospitals, residential buildings and religious establishments are being subjected to strikes. Innocent people are being killed, old men, women and children among them. There are hundreds of wounded. An acute shortage of medicine and food has arisen in the city.

In line with the unanimously adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1483, the occupying powers undertook to strictly observe the appropriate provisions of international humanitarian law. This presupposes, in particular, avoiding indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force.

Russia is appealing for the cessation of military actions and for the exercise of restraint. It is necessary to prevent an impending humanitarian disaster in Iraqi cities and to avoid any further escalation of the conflict in Iraq.

April 9, 2004
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:22 pm    Post subject: Scholars Condemn U.S. Genocide’ In Iraq Reply to topic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Scholars Condemn U.S. Genocide’ In Iraq
Posted: 04/10
From: Islam Online

The U.S. occupation forces should halt their "brutal genocide" against Iraqis and international community has to intervene for stopping this aggression that does not exempt even mosques or sanctities, 67 world Muslim scholars said in a statement.
"Muslim scholars condemn the brutal massacres perpetrated against children and women, and the aggression against mosques and sanctities ... in which heavy weapons and missiles are being used," the scholars said in a statement obtained by IslamOnline.net Thursday, April 8.

The signatories comprised prominent scholar Sheikh Yussef al-Qaradawi, Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guide Mohammed Mehdi Akef, Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement leader Hassan Nasrallah as well as Syrian and Lebanese Muslim scholars.

Others are Sudanese Islamic opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi, Yemeni tribal chief and al-Islah party leader Abdullah al-Ahmar and prominent Islamic figures from other North African Arab states, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia and other Muslim countries.

"Hundreds of innocent martyrs and thousands wounded," they lamented, calling on Arab and Muslim countries to use all sorts of pressures to “stop this”.

"They should apply economic and political pressure to bring an end to the American crime, and the international community should intervene to rein in U.S. forces," read the statement.

The scholars also called on the international community for intervention.

"The United Nations, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference should play a role to get the Iraqis out of this crisis," read the statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan stopped short of condemning the U.S. bombardment of the densely-populated western town of Fallujah by F16 fighter jets over the past few days, saying Thursday that Iraqis should rather pursue sovereignty with patience and dialogue.

"Ending occupation would prove a natural and radical solution to the crisis," read the statement.

Walk-Out Threats

The statement signatories called on the Governing Council members to "threaten to walk out of the council or suspend their membership in it, at least until the aggressive operations against Iraqis are halted ... lest they be considered partners in the crime".

Governing Council member and leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party Mohsen Abdul Hamid, who said Thursday that he would reconsider his participation in the body if the U.S.-led did not stop "spilling the blood" of Iraqis, was among the 67 signatories.

Declaring their "solidarity with the Iraqi Islamic and national resistance against the American occupation of Iraq," the Islamic figures applauded Iraqis for closing ranks in a bid to "thwart the plot aimed at triggering a sectarian civil war."

The "genocide" unfolding in Iraq betrays "blind hatred of Muslims," the statement said.

More than 300 local inhabitants were killed in a five-day-old offensive by U.S. occupation forces on Fallujah – now sealed off by American soldiers with corpses littering the streets after the only hospital was taken over.

U.S. civil administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer Friday, April 9, declared a suspension of the military offensive on Fallujah.

A few minutes later, F16s were seen shelling the city, much to the consternation of ordinary Iraqis hoping for an end to a one-year occupation.


Joining the wave of condemnation, the Islamic Research Center of Al-Azhar – the world’s largest Sunni authority – condemned the U.S. air attacks on mosques, calling such actions "terrorist".

The U.S. army admitted that a Cobra helicopter fighter slammed a Hell Fire missile and a laser-guided precision bomb into Abdulaziz Al-Samarai mosque in Fallujah Wednesday, killing up to 40 people inside.

"This is a brazen terrorist attack clearly against human rights principles," the center said in a statement obtained by IOL.

The statement said shelling mosques put the United States on equal footing with Israeli forces in occupied Palestinian territories.

"Attacking mosques and carrying out aggressions on civilians stoke up sentiments of hate and anger against this unjustified aggression."

Abdel-Moeti Bayyoumi, a member of the council, took the blame to the U.S. administration.

"The administration groups a gang of hardliners, so their respect for mosques is unexpected," Bayyoumi told IOL.

"They do not pay attention to human beings, international legitimacy laws, human rights or the sanctity of mosques."

Mohamed Ibrahim Al-Fayyoumi, another member, called the attacks on the Fallujah mosque as “carrying old vestiges of the crusades meant to crush the Islamic world and Islam itself".

Bob Kerrey, a member of a bipartisan commission investigating the 9/11 attacks, told U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice Thursday that the American administration should reconsider what "a Christian American army" was doing "in a Muslim country.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:30 pm    Post subject: Iraqi rebels hit US oil tankers Reply to topic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Iraqi rebels hit US oil tankers

From correspondents in Abu Ghraib, Iraq


The Advertiser

A CONVOY of US army oil tankers came under rocket-propelled grenade attack in Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, a witness told AFP.

"Several tankers are on fire," Ammar Salim told an AFP correspondent who could not approach the scene because US troops had immediately cordoned off the area. Smoke rose above the area.

A US army spokesman could not confirm the attack.

Salim said the insurgents were apparently trying to "disrupt supply lines for the US army".

"This is why (the insurgents) had taken control for several hours of the Abu Ghraib highway on Friday," he said.

Yesterday, hundreds of men armed with RPGs and assault-rifles had seized control of the highway linking Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, where US marines have been waging a fierce battle with insurgents since Monday.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:38 pm    Post subject: U.S. orders airstrikes in Iraq Reply to topic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

U.S. orders airstrikes in Iraq

FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - The United States said it unilaterally ordered Marines to stop fighting in the besieged Sunni city of Fallujah on Friday, but after dark the U.S. military apparently rescinded the order as it called in punishing airstrikes from AC-130 gunships.

On the western edge of Baghdad insurgents hit a fuel convoy, killing one U.S. soldier and an Iraqi driver the military reported.

A Baghdad correspondent for the Arab satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera said the convoy had been carrying fuel near Al-Amiriyah and that not fewer than nine people were killed in the attack. The report said none of the dead had been identified. The report could not be independently confirmed.

A second soldier was killed Friday in an attack using roadside bombs and small arms at Camp Cook, a U.S. base in northern Baghdad, the military said.

The confirmed deaths brought the toll of U.S. troops killed across Iraq this week to 42. The fighting also has killed more than 460 Iraqis - including more than 280 in Fallujah, a hospital official said. At least 643 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

Iraq's top U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer, announced a unilateral pause in the 5-day-old Fallujah operation to allow Sunni clerics and American military leaders an opportunity to talk with anti-coalition insurgents.

It also was designed to allow in humanitarian aid and let beleaguered residents bury their dead. Cars filled with women, children and the elderly streamed out of the city, a bastion of anti-U.S. Sunni guerrillas 35 miles west of Baghdad.

The Lebanese Al Hayat-LBC satellite channel said Friday it had received a letter from a hitherto unknown group, the Mohammadi Jihad Brigades, claiming responsibility for kidnapping foreigners in Iraq.

The TV said it had received a letter from the group demanding negotiations for the lifting of the U.S. blockade around Fallujah in exchange for the release of the foreigners it is holding.

The violence that has intensified and spread throughout Iraq this week has created a degree of cooperation between anti-American elements in both the Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities, which have been deeply at odds for decades.

U.S. troops drove into Kut before dawn Friday, pushing out members of the militia headed by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that had seized the southern textile and farming center this week after Ukrainian troops abandoned the city under heavy attack.

A U.S. helicopter struck al-Sadr's main office in Kut, killing two people, witnesses said. Americans were patrolling the streets during daylight hours.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said he expected the operation to retake Kut from al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army militia would be finished by Saturday morning.

"We are fairly comfortable that the town of al-Kut is well on its way to coming back under coalition control," he said. Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling told CNN he believed there were 300-400 al-Sadr militants in Kut on Thursday night who had been trying "to intimidate the people" in the city of about 250,000.

The Kut operation represented a major foray by the American military in a region where U.S. allies have struggled to deal with the uprising.

The siege on Fallujah, however, brought a condemnation from one of the most pro-American members of the U.S.-picked Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi.

"These operations were a mass punishment for the people of Fallujah," Pachachi told Al-Arabiya TV. "It was not right to punish all the people of Fallujah and we consider these operations by the Americans unacceptable and illegal."

The heavy fighting for Fallujah was prompted by the March 31 slaying of four U.S. civilians in the city. Their burned bodies were mutilated and dragged through the streets by a mob that hung two of them from a bridge.

The Marines called a halt to offensive operations in Fallujah at noon Friday. Only 90 minutes later, Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, commander of the 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment, said he had permission to resume offensive operations.

For hours afterward, there was sporadic shooting in the city that for some Iraqis has become a symbol of defiance. Marines were hunkered down around the city and in an industrial zone just inside, without entering residential neighborhoods. Before the halt was called, there was fighting around a mosque that was the center of battles for three days.

A year to the day after Marines toppled Saddam Hussein's statue in Firdos Square, a poster of al-Sadr was attached Friday to an unfinished bronze monument at the site. U.S. soldiers climbed up and tore it down.

The felling of Saddam's statue before a cheering crowd of Iraqis on April 9 was an enduring image of Iraq's liberation. But on Friday, Baghdad was tense, and a curfew was imposed in Firdos Square, where at least two armored vehicles were parked. At the western entrance to the capital, gunmen freely roamed the main highway, and a burned tanker truck sent a huge pall of smoke over the city.

In the afternoon, a mortar round hit a small building near the square. No injuries were reported in the attack, which shook two nearby hotels that are home to many foreigners.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that a year ago, he had not imagined Iraq would be in its current state.

"I thought that they would go from some good days and some bad days. There is no doubt that the current situation is very serious and it is the most serious that we have faced," Straw told the BBC.

Al-Sadr forces kept control of Kufa and the center of the nearby holy city of Najaf, despite a vow by U.S. commanders Wednesday to crush the militia.

Any U.S. operation to oust the militiamen would be hampered by the hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims who are in southern cities and roads this weekend for al-Arbaeen, which commemorates the end of the period of mourning for a 7th-century martyred saint.

Al-Sadr on Friday demanded U.S. forces leave Iraq, saying they now face "a civil revolt."

"I direct my speech to my enemy Bush and I tell him that if your excuse was that you are fighting Saddam, then this thing is a past and now you are fighting the entire Iraqi people," al-Sadr said in a sermon, delivered by one of his deputies at the Imam Ali Shrine, Shiite Islam's holiest site, in Najaf.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vowed not to withdraw 530 troops in Iraq despite the seizure of three Japanese civilians. Militants have threatened to kill the three unless the troops leave Iraq. A senior aide to al-Sadr denied his militia was responsible for kidnapping the Japanese.

At least three other foreign civilians are being held captive.

Gunmen on the highway outside Baghdad were seen stopping a car carrying two Western civilians - apparently private security guards - since both had sidearms. The gunmen pulled the men from the car, firing at the ground to warn them to obey. Their fate was not known.

U.S. troops also came under heavy attack in Muqdadiyah, 55 miles northeast of Baghdad. Up to 80 insurgents ambushed a U.S. patrol late Thursday, prompting an overnight battle. At least three insurgents were killed and up to 20 wounded, said Lt. Col. Peter A. Newell.

Insurgents armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades have put up stiff resistance in Fallujah, but Marines have said they are winning the battle, holding at one point about a quarter of the city.

The security firm that employed the four Americans who were killed in Fallujah, Blackwater USA, told The New York Times that they were lured into an ambush by members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.

The Iraqis promised the Blackwater-led convoy safe passage, but suddenly blocked off the road instead, preventing any escape from waiting gunmen, Patrick Toohey, Blackwater's vice president for government relations said in Friday's editions.

Two senior Pentagon officials said an inquiry into the slayings was continuing.

In Najaf, a policeman watched helplessly Thursday as a pickup truck carrying a dozen heavily armed Shiite militiamen went past his police station - already in the militia's hands.

Such action has raised concerns about the performance and loyalty of a police force that U.S. administrators are counting on to keep security in the future Iraq.

Coalition forces also have moved in to block the road between Kufa and Najaf, a senior aide to al-Sadr, Sheik Qays al-Khaz'ali, told the AP.

Al-Sadr, a young, firebrand anti-U.S. cleric, is thought to be holed up in his office in Najaf, protected by scores of gunmen. He has said he is willing to die resisting any U.S. attempt to capture him.

Al-Sadr supporters clashed with coalition forces in the southern city of Karbala and in Baqouba, north of Baghdad. At least six Iraqis were killed, officials said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:42 pm    Post subject: No word on fate of Japanese hostages as deadline nears Reply to topic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

No word on fate of Japanese hostages as deadline nears

Published on Apr 10, 2004

The Nation

BAGHDAD, April 10 (AFP) - The US-led coalition showed no sign Saturday of easing its tough no-deal line with the captors of three Japanese hostages as the deadline neared for their threatened execution.

While domestic pressure mounted on the Japanese government to comply with the kidnappers' demand for a withdrawal of Tokyo's troops from Iraq, occupation officials here observed a strict silence.

Repeated calls to coalition headquarters produced no news on the fate of the trio, among at least half a dozen foreign civilians seized this week in Iraq. One spokesman said only, "We have nothing on that."

Berlin officials said Saturday that two German government security workers had been missing in Iraq for several days but there was no word on whether they were being held hostage.

An unknown group calling itself the "Mujahedeen Brigades" said it had seized the three Japanese on Thursday and threatened to burn them alive if Japan's 550 troops do not quit Iraq by 1200 GMT Sunday.

A foreign ministry official said the government had yet to contact the captors or locate the hostages. Senior Vice Foreign Minister Ichiro Aisawa said they had received "various pieces of information" but could not be specific.

Aisawa arrived in Jordan early Saturday on a mission to garner as much information as possible about the kidnappings. He met with Jordan's acting foreign minister Amjad Majali.

"If it is needed I will go to Iraq, but before making the decision we must collect and analyse all the informations that we can in Jordan, our friendly country," Ichiro Aisawa told reporters.

The hostages have been identified as Noriaki Imai, 18, a volunteer worker,

Nahoko Takato, 34, a female volunteer, and Soichiro Koriyama, a 32-year-old photojournalist.

In Tokyo, hundreds of people rallied outside Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's office Saturday, demanding the withdrawal of Japanese troops from Iraq to save the lives of the three Japanese hostages.

"The lives of people are more important than the Japan-US alliance," the demonstrators chanted as they were prevented by police from crossing the street to the prime minister's official residence in the centre of Tokyo.

Ken Takada, who organised the rally, said his group had collected 100,000 signatures to urge Koizumi to yank his troops from Iraq. He said another rally would be held Sunday.

A former leader of the Japanese Red Army militant group also urged the kidnappers to spare the lives of the Japanese hostages, making his plea in an open letter in Lebanon's As-Safir newspaper Saturday.

Masao Adashi, 65, said the three were "not government officials, but members of a non-governmental organization opposing the policy of their government" in Iraq.

But the prime minister has vowed to keep his soldiers in the southern Iraqi city of Samawa despite the hostage crisis that overshadowed the arrival of US Vice President Dick Cheney in Tokyo on Saturday for high-level talks.

"We must not yield to terrorists' foul threats," he said Friday.

The Japanese were not the only foreign nationals taken prisoner by Iraqi insurgents turning to the age-old tactic of blackmail to force US allies to rethink the occupation.

Two Arabs -- one a naturalised Israeli working for an organisation close to the coalition, the other a Canadian national with a humanitarian group -- were held by a group called Ansar Al-Din.

A British civilian consultant for a dye works appeared to have been seized in the southern Shiite town of Nasiriyah on Friday, according to the British foreign office.

The German foreign ministry said on Saturday that two members of a German security unit employed in Iraq hade been missing for several days.

German television reports said the men, from an elite gendarmerie unit, may have disappeared while travelling in a convoy from Jordan to Baghdad that was attacked near the strife-torn city of Fallujah last Wednesday.

Two US soldiers were missing following an attack by Iraqi insurgents on their convoy west of Baghdad on Friday, a coalition military spokesman told AFP. It was not clear if they had been taken captive.

by Nayla Razzouk
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2004 12:10 pm    Post subject: Gunmen Shoot Down U.S. Helicopter in Iraq Reply to topic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Gunmen Shoot Down U.S. Helicopter in Iraq


Sunday, April 11, 2004

Appeal Democrat

FALLUJAH, Iraq - Gunmen shot down a U.S. attack helicopter during fighting in western Baghdad on Sunday, and the fate of its two-member crew was unknown. Insurgents and Marines called a cease-fire in the besieged city of Fallujah, though the peace was shaken by sniper fire.

A pall of black smoke rose on Baghdad's western edge where a military spokesman said the A8-64 Apache helicopter was downed by ground fire in the morning. More helicopters circled overhead, while U.S. troops closed off the main highway _ a key supply route into the capital.

"The condition of the (Apache's) crew is unknown," the spokesman said.

Heavy firing was heard, and tanks and Humvees moved into the area, near the suburb of Abu Ghraib, where masked gunmen have wreaked havoc for the past three days, attacking fuel convoys and blowing up tanker trucks. Insurgents kidnapped an American civilian and killed a U.S. soldier in the area Friday.

The captors of the American hostage _ Thomas Hammil, a Mississippi native who works for a U.S. contractor in Iraq _ threatened to kill and burn him unless U.S. troops end their assault on Fallujah by 6 a.m. Sunday. The deadline passed with no word on Hammil's fate.

Video footage aired on Arabic television Sunday showed the bodies of two dead Westerners _ apparently a pair of Americans seen by APTN cameramen on Friday being dragged out of a car on the Abu Ghraib highway, in a different incident from Hammil's kidnapping.

The cameramen fled the scene Friday, and the fate of the two men was unknown. But one of the bodies in Sunday's footage resembled one of the Americans taken out of the car.

The new footage showed the bodies surrounded by gunmen, who are heard on the tape saying the two are American intelligence officers. One of the bodies lay sprawled on the pavement, his face bloodied and his right leg drenched in blood. The other body had been rolled face down, his shirt lifted to reveal a bullet hole in his back. Both wore dark t-shirts and khaki pants often worn by private contractors.

Meanwhile, in Fallujah _ 35 miles west of Baghdad _ a rebel sniper shot and wounded two U.S. Marines patrolling an industrial zone on Sunday and an ensuing gunbattle left at least one of the insurgents dead. The violence came despite an apparent cease-fire and as negotiators held a third round of meetings aimed at ending the fighting.

Sunni militants told Arab TV stations that they had agreed to a U.S.-offered truce and vowed that it would hold until Sunday night.

The shooting occurred in the city's southeastern region. One of the Marines was shot in the head, the other in a leg, said Marine Capt. Jason Smith. They were evacuated to a field hospital and their condition was unknown.

He said troops shot and killed the sniper and also shot at four rebels who were spotted nearby running with rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Smith, 30, from Baton Rogue, La., said the shooting showed the rebels were not serious in abiding by the truce.

"We've got one (a cease-fire) in place, evidently they don't," he said.

Beside the clash, which lasted for several minutes, only sporadic gunfire could be heard around the city.

Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which is deployed in the city's south, had said earlier that the rebels had not shot at them for several hours. He said the Marines would not launch offensive attacks against the insurgents.

The talks _ the third round between members of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council and Fallujah representatives _ were scheduled to be held between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Byrne said.

A guerrilla commander in Fallujah's al-Jolan neighborhood told Al-Jazeera television that his fighters would abide by the truce.

"I have ordered my fighters to adhere to the cease-fire. We will stop operations as long as the other side does as well," said the commander, identifying himself only by the nom de guerre Abu Muadh. "But I warn everyone: If the enemy breaks the cease-fire, we will respond."

He added that the truce was due to last until 10 p.m. and that talks were being held aimed at extending it.

About a third of Fallujah's population of 200,000 have fled the city since noon Friday when the Marines announced a unilateral pause of their offensive, according to U.S. commanders. Women and children piled into pickups and clung to the outside of packed minivans. U.S. forces barred men of fighting age from leaving.

Marines used the relative lull in fighting Sunday to search for weapon caches in the industrial area, which they have occupied for several days and used as a staging area for raids into adjoining neighborhoods. Troops used sledge hammers to smash locks on doors of metal workshops before searching inside.

One group of Marines went into a four-story apartment building on the outskirts of the industrial zone and escorted members of three families sheltering there to a nearby warehouse to stock up on food and other supplies.

"Families are holed up in houses. They have been told to stay inside. But they are running out of water and food. We are trying to get rations to them," Smith said.

There was no confirmation from U.S. commanders that a cease-fire with the rebels had been struck.

But Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Governing Council, said the militants agreed in principle to a truce starting Sunday, but the deal depended on the doubtful prospect of American soldiers withdrawing from the city.

U.S. commanders have said that for a truce to hold, the militants must hand over the Iraqis who killed and mutilated four American civilians on March 31 and allow the return of Iraqi police to their stations to keep order, Othman said.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters Saturday that fighters must also "lay down their arms" and renounce their membership in extremist groups to fully end the insurgency that has made Fallujah its stronghold.

The Marines have moved in reinforcements around Fallujah and have warned of an assault to take the entire city if negotiations fall through.

Hospital officials on Wednesday said the Iraqi death toll was 280. No figure has been released since then. Five Marines have been killed in the fighting.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2004 1:09 pm    Post subject: Germany: Iraq Security Guards Likely Dead Reply to topic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Germany: Iraq Security Guards Likely Dead

The Associated Press

BERLIN - Two security agents for the German Embassy in Baghdad who have been missing in Iraq for several days are most likely dead, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

The two German men, ages 38 and 25, were traveling from Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad on a routine trip Wednesday and were ambushed near Fallujah, according to the ministry.

"Based on current intelligence, it is unfortunately highly probable that both security agents have perished," an official with the ministry said on condition of anonymity. But, "a final confirmation is still outstanding."

Other vehicles in the convoy reached the embassy on Thursday after coming under fire, the ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry said there was no evidence that the two men had been kidnapped.

The two men were agents with GSG-9, an elite police unit. Members of the unit were sent in November to help protect the embassy and German workers helping to restore water supplies.

The project was meant to signal Berlin's willingness to help in reconstruction despite its opposition to the Iraq war.

Germany has no troops in Iraq. Last month, a German man working on a water project near the southern city of Karbala was killed in a drive-by shooting, along with a Dutch citizen.

The German embassy evacuated its diplomats from Baghdad in March 2003 in anticipation of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. After Baghdad fell, it was one of many buildings targeted by looters and was shut down. After German diplomats returned to Baghdad in the summer, the embassy was moved to a diplomat's residence.

Along with violence in central and southern Iraq this week, there has been a rash of kidnappings by militants.

April 11, 2004 8:12 AM
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2004 1:19 pm    Post subject: Three Japanese Hostages In Iraq ‘Released’ Reply to topic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Three Japanese Hostages In Iraq ‘Released’

Tokyo, April 11(NNN): The three young Japanese held hostage in the Gulf nation of Iraq have been released near Fallujah, Tokyo Broadcasting System and Jiji Press agency reported here on Sunday, quoting Qatar-based the Al-Jazeera satellite channel.

The abductors decided to free their hostages following an appeal from country’s Muslim clerics.

Arabic al-Jazeera TV quoted a statement from the kidnappers saying they freed the three after mediation by a Sunni Muslim organisation.

The insurgents had previously threatened to burn the journalist and two aid workers alive unless Japan withdrew its forces from Iraq.

Japan had refused to withdraw its troops from Iraq despite the threats.

News of the impending release came after the Muslim Clerics Association issued a call to release all foreigners not connected to the US-led occupation forces.

"The armed men who kidnapped three Japanese in Iraq have decided to release them within 24 hours," Al-Jazeera TV reported on Saturday evening.

"A statement issued by the so-called 'Mujahedeen Brigades' said that they responded to a request from the Council of Muslim Ulema in Iraq" to free the trio, Al-Jazeera added.

The statement urged the Japanese people to put pressure on their government to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

It is worth mentioning here that the captors from the "Mujahedeen Brigades" had threatened to burn the three alive if Japanese troops were not pulled out of Iraq by 1200 GMT on Sunday, 72 hours after footage showing the three in captivity was broadcasted on Al-Jazeera.

"We are aware of the report by Al-Jazeera that the hostages will be freed within 24 hours and that the decision was made in response to an appeal from Islam clerics," a Tokyo official announced on Sunday morning. "But we have no more comment to make on the matter at present," the official added.

Earlier Japan's Kyodo news agency quoted unnamed officials as saying they had received information that the hostages would be freed at noon Japanese time (0300 GMT).

The families of the hostages were jubilant when they heard the news. "They were all extremely delighted, and cheers erupted when they heard the news," said their representative Naoya Ohira.

The families had previously pleaded with their government to give in to the demands of the Iraqi kidnappers and pull out of Iraq, but officials promised to seek other ways of resolving the crisis. Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi urged the kidnappers to release the hostages in a videotaped message dubbed into Arabic and broadcast round the world.

Earlier Japan was stunned by video footage showing the three hostages blindfolded, and with a gun to their heads. They are: Noriaki Imai, 18, who had planned to research the effects of depleted uranium weapons; 32-year-old photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama, and aid worker Nahoko Takato, 34.

The most harrowing footage, showing the hostages with knives to their throats and conveying the screams of the female hostage, Nahoko Takato, was not aired on Japanese television.

Meanwhile, the Japanese public is sharply divided over the sending of 550 troops to Samawah in southern Iraq. Critics argue it violates the country's pacifist constitution, especially if the troops are drawn into violence.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2004 6:24 pm    Post subject: Fallujah Death Toll for Week More Than 600 Reply to topic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Posted on Sun, Apr. 11, 2004

Fallujah Death Toll for Week More Than 600


Associated Press

FALLUJAH, Iraq - More than 600 Iraqis have been killed in fighting in Fallujah since Marines began a siege against Sunni insurgents in the city a week ago, the head of the city's hospital said Sunday.

Statistics of the dead were gathered from four main clinics around the city and from Fallujah General Hospital, said the hospital's director, Rafie al-Issawi.

The dead totaled more than 600 since the siege of Fallujah began early Monday, he said. Bodies were being buried in two soccer fields, one of which was visited by an Associated Press reporter. Row after row of graves filled the field.

The total number of dead in the city may be even higher than the hospital's tally, al-Issawi said.

"We have reports of an unknown number of dead being buried in people's homes without coming to the clinics," he said.

Asked about the report of 600 dead, Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne said, "What I think you will find is 95 percent of those were military age males that were killed in the fighting."

"The Marines are trained to be precise in their firepower .... The fact that there are 600 goes back to the fact that the Marines are very good at what they do," he said.

A day earlier, Byrne, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, said his batallion - one of three in or around the city - had confirmed 40 Iraqi insurgents were killed and 19 others were likely dead throughout the entire campaign.

Bodies were being buried at the soccer fields in Fallujah as residents took advantage of a pause in fighting since Friday to tend to casualties.

At one of the fields, dubbed the "Graveyard of the Martyrs" by residents, an AP reporter saw rows of freshly dug graves with wooden planks for headstones.

Khalaf al-Jumaili, a volunteer helping bury bodies at the field, said more than 300 people had been interred there.

Volunteers were seen carrying bodies in blankets and lowering them into graves while bystanders shouted, "Martyr, martyr!"

It was not known how many were buried at the other soccer field.

Asked Sunday about the number of Iraqi casualties in Fallujah, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt referred reporters to Marine spokesmen. But he insisted that Marines are "tremendously precise" in their operations and suggested insurgents were hiding among civilians, causing civilian deaths.

Nearly a third of Fallujah's 200,000 people fled the city during the lull in fighting.

During the past week's fighting, Marines and insurgents have battled in residential neighborhoods, sometimes around mosques, with the Marines calling in tanks and helicopter gunships for support. AC-130 warplanes have also been used, and Marine snipers have taken up positions on buildings.

Marines say insurgents have used at least one mosque as a firebase to attack American troops. Witnesses in the city have reported Marine snipers firing from a separate mosque's minaret on insurgents below.


AP correspondent Lourdes Navarro with the Marines outside Fallujah contributed to this report.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2004 11:27 am    Post subject: Japan Unsure of Safety of Hostages in Iraq Reply to topic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Japan Unsure of Safety of Hostages in Iraq


TOKYO - Optimism that three Japanese held hostage in Iraq would be quickly released evaporated Monday, as Tokyo's top government spokesman backtracked on an earlier statement and said authorities were no longer confident about their safety.

The Japanese are among a growing number foreign nationals kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents _ including a Mississippi man whose fate was also unclear and seven Chinese nationals seized by armed men on Sunday.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in Tokyo on a weeklong Asia tour, promised Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that the United States would "do everything we can to be of assistance."

The Japanese hostages _ two aid workers and a photojournalist _ were being held by a previously unknown group calling itself the "Mujahedeen Brigades," which demanded Japan pull its troops out of Iraq within three days or it would burn the three alive.

"At one point we were able to make the judgment from various perspectives that they (the Japanese) were safe, but now that's unconfirmed," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference.

His comments came in sharp contrast to official remarks the day before indicating the three hostages were about to be freed. Japanese media even reported that the military was getting transport planes ready to bring them home.

The hostages were taken amid a recent spate of kidnappings in Iraq, including the abduction of seven Chinese Sunday. But some foreigners were also being released _ insurgents freed a Briton and said they were releasing eight other captives of various nationalities.

The American, Thomas Hamill, 43, who works for a U.S. contractor in Iraq, was snatched Friday by gunmen who attacked a fuel convoy he was guarding. His captors threatened to kill him unless U.S. troops ended their assault on the city of Fallujah. The deadline passed Sunday morning with no word on his fate.

On Monday, China appealed to Iraqi authorities to rescue the hostages and urged its citizens to avoid Iraq.

The group entered Iraq from Jordan on Sunday and were taken later in the day in Fallujah, the Foreign Ministry said on its Web site. State television said the hostages, aged 18 to 49, didn't work for China's government or a state company.

For the Japanese hostages' families, the uncertainty was taking its toll.

"The anxiety is overwhelming," said Takashi Imai, the father of the youngest of the three hostages, 18-year-old Naoki Imai. "I know the troops are in Iraq to make a contribution _ but so is our son. They can't just let him be killed."

Imai, who graduated from high school last month, is a member of a group trying to raise awareness about the health hazards facing civilians in Iraq from depleted uranium munitions used by U.S. troops. Another hostage, 34-year-old Nahoko Takato, worked with street children in the war-ravaged country. The third hostage is a free-lance photojournalist.

Koizumi has staunchly refused to consider the withdrawal demand, a position lauded by Cheney.

"We wholeheartedly support the position the prime minister has taken with respect to the question of the Japanese hostages," Cheney told reporters Monday.

Despite Japan's refusal to withdraw from Iraq, officials said Sunday night that they had received word the hostages would be released unharmed.

Fukuda on Monday acknowledged the government had no evidence that was true.

"We haven't been able to confirm what kind of situation the three hostages are in," he said.

The crisis has swelled into Koizumi's biggest test since he assumed office three years ago.

Despite a deeply divided public, Koizumi championed the plan to send about 1,000 non-combat troops to help in the reconstruction of Iraq in this country's biggest and most dangerous overseas military operation since World War II.

The troops began arriving in the southeastern Iraq city of Samawah in January to carry out water purification projects and to assist in the rebuilding of schools and other infrastructure.

Though many Japanese appear to understand Koizumi's refusal to be cowed, they are also moved by the emotional pleas of the hostages' families.

The crisis began dramatically when a video was aired on prime time television Thursday night showing the hostages surrounded by masked men with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

The first sign of a breakthrough came from the Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera, which reported early Sunday it had received a statement from the kidnappers saying they had decided to free their hostages within 24 hours following mediation by a Sunni Muslim organization, the Islamic Clerics Committee.


Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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