Published October 04, 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq – A militant group claimed Monday to have killed two hostages, one a Turk and the other an Iraqi who was a longtime resident in Italy (search), the Arab news network Al-Jazeera reported. Two abducted Indonesian women, meanwhile, were freed, diplomats said.
The station said it had received video footage from a group calling itself the Salafist Brigades of Abu Bakr Al-Sidiq accusing the Turkish and Iraqi hostages of being spies. A segment broadcast on the network showed four armed militants dressed in black standing behind two kneeling men.
Al-Jazeera (search) identified the Iraqi as Anwar Wali but did not give the Turkish man's name.
In Italy, Wali's family said the Italian Foreign Ministry had notified them that his death was confirmed. The Foreign Ministry told me that my brother was killed," the victim's brother, Emad Wali, said by telephone from the family's home in Castelfranco Veneto in northeast Italy.
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini expressed "his deepest sorrow and indignation for this brutal deed," a ministry statement said.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's (search) office said the "multiplying in Iraq of brutal terrorist deeds which spare neither women and children reinforces the determination of the government in fighting international terrorism."
Italy has a contingent of troops in southern Iraq backing the U.S.-led military presence in the country. Two Italian hostages have been slain by the captors this year.
Two female Italian aid workers abducted in Baghdad were freed on Sept. 28. The Italian government has denied news reports that ransom was paid for the women, but a top member of parliament has said he believes the government paid for their release.
Ayad Anwar Wali, who worked for a furniture company, had lived in Italy since the early 1980s and was married to an Italian woman. According to his brother, Wali had formally applied for Italian citizenship and the request had been pending.
Desperate for news about his brother, Wali in recent days had accused the Italian government of doing little for the businessman's freedom and alleged that Rome considered the man "minor league" because he wasn't Italian.
The Foreign Ministry on Monday insisted that following the businessman's disappearance, it "activated all channels to obtain Mr. Wali's liberation, considering him in the same way as an Italian citizen."
More than 150 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq by a range of groups, some holding them for ransom while others have set political conditions for their release. At least 26 hostages have been killed.
Two Indonesian women reported kidnapped last week were freed and arrived at the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Baghdad, a diplomat at the embassy said.
Their captors, the Islamic Army in Iraq, had demanded that the Indonesian government release a jailed Islamic radical cleric. However, the cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir — who Washington says is a terror mastermind in Southeast Asia — denounced the abduction as un-Islamic and rejected being released in response to the kidnapping.
On Monday, Abu Dhabi TV broadcast footage of the two women — Rosidah binti Anan and Rafikan binti Aming — in long black cloaks known as abayas, sitting quietly in a lounge at the embassy. They appeared nervous but unharmed as they sat between officials.
The women, who had been working as maids in Baghdad, were seen in a video aired in Al-Jazeera on Thursday along with two Lebanese and six Iraqi hostages that the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed to be holding.
The fate of those other eight hostages was not known.
The Islamic Army in Iraq has also claimed responsibility for kidnapping two French journalists who disappeared with their Syrian driver on Aug. 21.
Meanwhile, a Jordanian transportation company said kidnappers holding one of its employeers have demanded $500,000 to set him free, reneging on an earlier promise to release the hostage if the company he worked for stopped doing business in Iraq.
Hisham Talab el-Aza, an administrator with the Jordan-based Starlite Co., disappeared in Iraq. A video released Saturday showed Iraqi militants threatening to kill el-Aza unless his company left Iraq within 72 hours, the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya network reported.
Starlite President Mohammed Sameh al-Ajlouni said Monday that the company complied with the initial demand and closed down in Iraq, laying off 51 people. But he said he received a telephone call from the hostage late Sunday "telling me that his kidnappers want half a million dollars as ransom."
"We're a small company and we can't afford to pay such a large sum of money," al-Ajlouni told The Associated Press. "Now, we are faced with the dilemma of how we can help free Hisham."