BAGHDAD, Iraq – A kidnapped British aid worker made another plea for her life in a video aired Wednesday, urging Britain to withdraw troops from the country as some 800 British soldiers headed north toward Baghdad to bolster U.S. forces.
The tape broadcast on Al-Jazeera television showed a distraught Margaret Hassan (search), the 59-year-old head of CARE International in Iraq, blinking back tears as she spoke.
"Please don't bring the soldiers to Baghdad. Take them away. Please, on top of that, please release the women prisoners," she said.
No group has claimed responsibility for her abduction. But followers of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) made the same demand for the release of female prisoners in the abduction of two Americans and a Briton last month. All three were beheaded.
On Wednesday, Britain began redeploying some 800 troops toward the restive area south of Baghdad area in a move aimed at freeing up U.S. forces for an assault on insurgent areas north and west of the capital.
The soldiers of the Black Watch and the Queen's Dragoon Guards are expected to assume security responsibility in areas close to the capital so U.S. forces can be shifted to insurgent strongholds including Fallujah, where al-Zarqawi and his terror group are believed to operate.
Prime Minister Tony Blair's (search) agreement to the U.S. request for redeployment is a politically sensitive one for the British leader, whose popularity has plummeted because of his support for the Iraq war.
It was the third video released since Hassan — who also holds Iraqi and Irish citizenship — was kidnapped on her way to work in Baghdad a week ago. In the video, Hassan also called on CARE International (search) to close its offices in Iraq. The organization has suspended its activities since her Oct. 19 abduction.
Last Friday, Hassan made a similar heart-wrenching plea to Blair to act to save her life, saying she faced the same fate as British engineer Kenneth Bigley, who was beheaded this month.
Hassan's captors have not identified themselves in any of the videos — no gunmen or banners with slogans have appeared as they often do in other hostage videos.
Britain's 8,500 troops are based around the southern city of Basra in a relatively peaceful area of Iraq. Sixty-eight British soldiers have been killed in Iraq, compared with more than 1,000 U.S. troops.
British lawmakers have opposed moving the troops into U.S.-controlled areas, saying it would place soldiers in more danger.
On Wednesday, a motorcycle bomber attacked a U.S. convoy in central Iraq, killing one American soldier and wounding another. One person was killed and three were wounded when a bomb exploded near their vehicle Wednesday morning on the road to Baghdad airport, a U.S. official said. The victims' nationalities were unavailable.
Gunmen also killed Iraqi television anchorwoman Leqaa Abdul Razzaq Wednesday as she was traveling by taxi to her home in southeastern Baghdad, a station official said.
Salah al-Askary, a news director at the station, said a motive wasn't clear and that as far as he knew Abdul Razzaq, who was about 30, had received no threats. Her husband was murdered about two months ago, he said.
In northern Baghdad, a senior Iraqi Foreign Ministry official, Qusai Mahdi Saleh, was killed in what may have been a botched kidnap attempt, an Iraqi official said.
Saleh, who once served as Iraq's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, was driving to his home when four men stopped his car and tried to force him from the vehicle, Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abbawi said. Saleh resisted and the gunmen shot him, Abbawi said.
Abbawi blamed criminals, but the Islamic Army in Iraq, an insurgent group, claimed responsibility in statement to Al-Jazeera.
U.S. forces have been increasing raids in Sunni insurgent areas to the north, south and west of the capital in recent months in a bid to stabilize Iraq ahead of national elections in January. The U.S. military said Wednesday that Iraqi forces, backed by Marines, captured 18 insurgents in a sweep through the central Iraqi town of Haswah.
Earlier in the day, Blair repeated his pledge that the Black Watch contingent would be home in Scotland by Christmas. However, he didn't rule out further British deployments in the area.
"We don't believe there will be a further requirement for other troops. But I can't commit myself, I can't guarantee that because I obviously don't know the situation that may arise," Blair told the House of Commons.
"What I do know is that if there is any contingency ... we are able to meet it," he said.
Convoys of large flatbed trucks carried armored British vehicles up a road through Iraq's southern desert, stopping overnight in Nasiriyah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. British officials have not specified where the troops will be sent, but media reports indicated the Black Watch would be sent to the insurgent hotspot of Iskandariyah, north of Hillah.
Another hostage drama was playing out in Japan, where Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a staunch U.S. ally, took a tough stand against militants who threatened to behead a Japanese hostage, refusing to pull out his country's 500 troops from Iraq.
"The Self-Defense Forces will not withdraw," Koizumi said Wednesday. "I cannot allow terrorism and cannot bow to terrorism."
The victim — 24-year-old Shosei Koda — appeared in a video posted on the Internet in which al-Zarqawi's terror group vowed to kill him within 48 hours unless the demand was met.