Pakistani hostages killed in Iraq

TERROR: Islamabad leaders condemned the murder of two of the country's citizens by militants in Iraq, while officials desperately sought confirmation of the deaths


Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 1

Pakistan's leaders and parliament yesterday condemned the apparent killing of two of its citizens kidnapped in Iraq, while the slain men's grieving families pleaded with their killers to release the bodies for proper burial.

In a strongly worded statement issued to the state-run news agency, President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said they had "received with the greatest distress and anguish the news of the reported murder of two Pakistanis."

"Those who have committed this crime have caused the greatest harm both to humanity and Islam," their statement said.

Parliament called the killings a "brutal act" that shocked the entire nation.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri told the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, that the government was in touch with Iraqi clerics and other officials and was hoping to recover the bodies of the deceased men.

Kasuri said the government will also seek compensation from the men's employers.

Pakistani Geo television showed the sisters and mother of one of the slain men, Raja Azad, wailing and beating their chests in anguish.

In Rawalakot, a mountain district in Pakistani Kashmir, the other man's father made an emotional appeal to the Pakistani government to help get his son's body.

"My son cannot come back to us but they should return his body," said Mohammed Naeem, whose son, Sajid Naeem, worked as a driver in Iraq before he was seized by militants and reportedly killed.

"You cannot imagine the agony we are passing through," he said, his voice choking with emotions as relatives and neighbors gathered to offer condolences.

Musharraf and Hussain reiterated Pakistan's commitment to the security and independence of Iraq and said they hoped that Iraq and its people would achieve complete security and stability, free of internal and external turmoil.

The reaction came shortly after an Iraqi militant group claimed that it had killed two Pakistani hostages but freed their Iraqi driver, according to al Jazeera television.