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Iraqi PM's Family Members Abducted

Gunmen abducted three members of Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's (search) family from their Baghdad home, his spokesman said Wednesday, and militants said they would be beheaded in two days if the siege of Fallujah (search) was not lifted.

A cousin of the premier, Ghazi Allawi, the cousin's wife and their daughter-in-law were snatched Tuesday night from their house in the the western Yarmouk neighborhood Tuesday evening, government spokesman Thair al-Naqeeb said.

A statement from Al-Naqeeb corrected his earlier report that two relatives were kidnapped, the cousin and the daughter-in-law. Initial police reports had said the wife was also abducted.

"Ghazi Allawi is 75 years old. He has no political affiliation, and is not holding a government post," the statement said.

A group calling itself Ansar al-Jihad (search) group claimed in a Web posting that it carried out the abductions and threatened to behead the three in 48 hours unless Allawi and his government release all female and male detainees in Iraq and lift the siege on Fallujah.

"We promise Allah and his messenger that if the agent government doesn't respond to our demands within 48 hours, they (the hostages) will be beheaded."

The claim's authenticity couldn't be verified.

Hundreds of Iraqis have been kidnapped in recent months, mainly by groups demanding ransom payments.

More than 170 foreigners have been kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's regime fell in April 2003. More than 30 foreign hostages have been killed. Many of the kidnappers pursue political motives such as the withdrawal of foreign companies and troops from Iraq.