Thu, Sep 23, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Another hostage murdered by Islamic militants in Iraq

AP , CAIRO, EGYPT

Three unidentified military personnel ride their bicycles next to a US Apache helicopter in the Tallil Air Field near the Iraqi town of Nasiriyah yesterday. Three crew members were wounded late Tuesday after a US Blackhawk helicopter crashed shortly after take-off from this southern Iraqi airfield.

PHOTO: AP

An Islamic Web site claimed that militants had killed a second US hostage in Iraq and threatened that a Briton kidnapped with him would also die if his government did not act.

A decapitated body was handed over to American authorities in Baghdad yesterday, the US Embassy said, adding its identity was not immediately known. The Iraqi Interior Ministry had said earlier yesterday a decapitated body had been found along with the head in a black plastic bag in Baghdad.

The posting, the second on the Web to refer to the purported killing, did not say what the British government should do or give a deadline. But earlier statements from Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad, the group believed to have kidnapped the two Americans and the Briton, had demanded the release of women in US and British custody in Iraq.

The posting appeared to be on Tawhid and Jihad's own Web site, which had been disabled much of the last week but became accessible again late Tuesday or early yesterday. The initial claim, which appeared on another Web site signed with the pseudonym Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, had not mentioned the Briton.

American engineer Eugene Armstrong, 52, was the first of three men abducted Thursday to be killed, apparently Monday. Footage of his beheading was posted on Islamic Web sites within an hour of an al-Iraqi statement promising it. Armstrong's body was found in Baghdad hours before news of his beheading became public Monday.

American Jack Hensley, who would have been 49 yesterday, and Briton Kenneth Bigley, 62, were kidnapped with Armstrong. The brief statement on the Tawhid and Jihad site did not identify the latest victim by name.

"The lions of Tawhid and Jihad carried out the slaughter of the second American prisoner before the end of the specific deadline," the statement said. Earlier statements had given the US 24 hours ending yesterday to release women prisoners.

On yesterday morning -- hours after the claim of the second beheading -- the Iraqi Justice Ministry said the government and the US forces had decided to free a female prisoner in American custody.

Ministry spokesman Noori Abdul-Rahim Ibrahim said Rihab Rashid Taha, a scientist dubbed "Dr. Germ" for her work on biological weapons, would be conditionally released on bail. He denied the decision was linked to the kidnappers' demands.

The US military says the only other women in its custody in Iraq is Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a researcher known as "Mrs. Anthrax."

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