Jordanian Reportedly Taken Hostage in Iraq

The Arab television network Al-Jazeera (search) broadcast footage Tuesday of a Jordanian truck driver purportedly taken hostage in Iraq. Separately, a militant group said it would release a Turkish hostage but threatened to behead those who deal with the coalition forces here.

The footage shown on Al-Jazeera showed three masked men standing behind the kneeling hostage, who held his passport in front of him.

The group, which called itself "Brigades of Al-Tawhid Lions," gave the man's employer 48 hours to suspend its activities in Iraq. The man's employer was not named.

The footage was broadcast a day after insurgents warned Jordanian truckers that they would be killed if they entered Iraq. The Islamic Army in Iraq accused Jordanian drivers of transporting supplies to American forces.

"We tell all those who do not abide by this statement ... that your only punishment will be death," said the leaflets distributed by masked gunmen in the western city of Ramadi (search).

But the family of the truck driver, who was identified in the video as Turki Simer Khalifeh al-Breizat, said they had no confirmation of his abduction.

Al-Breizat left for Iraq on Sept. 2, according to a cousin who identified herself as Umm Yousef.

He last contacted the family a week ago, Umm Yousef said, speaking by phone from Madaba, Jordan.

"His cell phone went dead completely" on Sept. 7, she said.

Al-Breizat worked for a Jordanian firm that trades with Iraq, but she had no other information on the company.

Meanwhile, a militant group said in a tape obtained Tuesday it would release a Turkish hostage who was working for the Americans and threatened to behead those who deal with the coalition forces here.

"The Shura Council of the Mujahedeen decided to release the Turkish hostage after he has converted to Islam and has repented for working with the infidel American occupation forces," said a man, his face covered, reading from a statement on a tape obtained by Associated Press Television News.

"We warn the Turkish government against pushing its citizens to work with the infidel occupation forces. We will sever the head of all those who deal with the infidel occupation forces."

The tape showed five masked men, some holding guns, standing behind the apparent hostage. A sixth man squatted next to the hostage who was sitting, cross-legged on the floor and holding his passport opened to the photo page.

The man identified himself as Aytullah Gezmen.

The statement said the release came in recognition of "the stance of the Turkish people and its support to the city of Tal Afar."

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has warned American officials that Ankara would stop cooperating in Iraq if U.S. forces continued to harm the Turkish minority in the country's north. Tal Afar is a center for Iraq's ethnic Turks and has been besieged by U.S and Iraqi forces.

The siege was lifted Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini appealed on an Arabic TV station to the human values found in all religions for the release of two aid workers abducted in Iraq. Frattini was in the Emirates on the second leg of a Persian Gulf tour aimed at securing the release of two Italian aid workers and two Iraqis working with them who were seized Sept. 7.

Militants waging a 16-month insurgency increasingly have turned to kidnapping to force coalition forces and contractors from the country. More than 100 foreigners, including at least 12 Jordanians, have been abducted since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003; many of them have been executed.

In July, Iraq agreed in principle to provide protection to Jordanian trucks by having armed guards accompany convoys of Jordanian vehicles on its soil.

The Jordanian government also has said it was assessing the possibility of having Jordanian trucks unload at the border, where Iraqi trucks would then ferry the imported commodities onward.