Fri, Jul 23, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Employer of Iraq hostages vows to win their release

REUTERS , BAGHDAD

The Kuwaiti transport company that employs seven foreign drivers seized by guerrillas in Iraq said yesterday it would do all it could to win their release and prevent the kidnappers carrying out a threat to kill them.

"Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Company will take all appropriate measures to secure the release of the drivers who were detained in Iraq yesterday," a company statement said.

Video footage given to news organizations showed the seven men, looking tired and afraid, stating their name and nationality to the camera. Their captors say they will behead them one by one unless their employer pulls out of Iraq.

The announcement of their kidnapping on Wednesday sparked a new hostage crisis just a day after guerrillas freed a Filipino driver following Manila's capitulation to their demands.

The guerrillas also demanded that India, Kenya and Egypt withdraw their citizens from Iraq. None of the countries are part of the US-led military coalition in Iraq, but many of their nationals work as drivers and contractors.

"If they carry out their threat it would be a serious development. We condemn this incident. We hope that the dark period does not last long," Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh said in Islamabad, where he is attending a conference.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Chi-rau Ali Mwakwere said his country "will do everything possible to get them back home."

The wife of one of the Kenyans, father of four Ibrahim Khamis, said the family was praying for his safe return.

"He predicted difficulties in his line of work but was determined to go ahead with it. He decided to stay despite the dangers to work for the sake of his family," Esha Nyarimbo Mwandighi told reporters.

In the latest violence, during hours of fighting in the rebellious western city of Ramadi on Wed-nesday, US Marines killed 25 guerrillas, wounded 17 and captured 25, the US military said in a statement.

It said 13 US Marines and one soldier were wounded in the clashes but none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Also see story:

Equipment shortages plague new Iraqi security forces

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