2 Hostages Killed on Video

A militant group posted a video on the Web on Wednesday showing gunmen killing execution-style two Iraqis said to have set up an Internet system in northern Iraq to help in this month's elections.

The two men are shown in the video kneeling blindfolded next to a stone wall before being shot in the head.

"This is the end of any apostate who cooperates with the crusader troops in Iraq in their war against Islam," the militant group Ansar al-Sunnah Army (search) said in a statement screened on the video after the slaying.

The group accused the two Iraqis of working to "facilitate the elections" on Jan. 30. Insurgents have stepped up violence across Iraq in a bid to wreck the vote. Ansar al-Sunnah has previously claimed responsibility for various bloody attacks and kidnapping of foreigners in Iraq.

The video appeared on a Web site known for carrying messages from Islamic militant groups. Its authenticity could not be verified.

On the video, each man read a statement in Arabic while sitting alone in front of an Ansar al-Sunnah banner. The first man gave his name as Mohammed Abdullah and said he was an engineer working for an American company called "Proactive."

Abdullah said he went to the northern Iraqi cities of Mosul and Irbil to set up Internet connections "to facilitate the elections."

The second man identified himself as Ali Ghrain and gave the same details about his work.

Both men held a sheet of paper. A close-up view showed the paper appeared to be a worksheet, headlined "SG.C2 Communications Program" and carrying the name, phone number and e-mail address of Maj. Robert Sile.

When The Associated Press called Sile, it found he had not heard of the videotape or of the men's deaths.

"They are not working directly for me. I never met them personally," Sile said, interviewed from his office in Baghdad.

Sile recognized Proactive (search) as a company that does contract work for the U.S. military, but he said he could not confirm whether the men worked for Proactive or for a subcontractor.

The video showed a laptop computer, CDs, satellite phones, and other pieces of equipment that allegedly belonged to Abdullah and Ghrain. The video did not say when or how the men were kidnapped.

Insurgent attacks in Mosul (search), Iraq's third-largest city, have increased dramatically in recent months. Leaflets have been distributed warning residents not to go to polling stations on Jan. 30, when Iraqis are due to elect a transitional national assembly that will draw up a constitution.