Iraqi insurgents release 3 captives

Two Turks, a Pakistani freed after facing threats they would be beheaded

July 03, 2004|By Carol J. Williams | Carol J. Williams,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi insurgents released yesterday three captives they threatened to behead - two Turks and a Pakistani - but continued to harass foreign workers, firing rockets into two Baghdad hotels housing security contractors.

The release of the Turkish air-conditioning repairmen had been expected. Their employer, Kayteks, had capitulated to militants' demands that the company cease all support and cooperation with the multinational forces in Iraq.

The Arabic satellite television channel Al-Jazeera aired footage showing the men kneeling at the feet of two masked captors who said they were freeing the Turks for showing "repentance" and out of respect for the Turkish people, who are fellow Muslims.

Pakistani's release

It was unclear why the insurgents holding Pakistani driver Amjad Hafeez decided to free him. His U.S. employer - Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - is one of the largest suppliers of goods and services to the U.S.-led forces. It might have been out of fear that to execute a Muslim would further alienate Iraqis, many of whom were horrified by the beheadings of American contractor Nicholas Berg and South Korean translator Kim Sun Il.

Pakistani Information Minister Sheik Rashid Ahmed told journalists in Islamabad that Hafeez had called his family in Pakistan to say he was safe and in neighboring Kuwait.

There has been no word for three days on another captive, Lebanese-born U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 24, of West Jordan, Utah. Hassoun has been missing since June 19 but was not classified as a hostage until Tuesday, after footage of the blindfolded soldier aired on Al-Jazeera.

The Arabic news channel claimed Tuesday that Spc. Keith Matthew Maupin, who had been taken hostage on April 9, had been executed. But U.S. military investigators have been unable to confirm that Maupin, 20, of Batavia, Ohio, was the subject of a grainy videotape delivered to the network and purported to show the execution.

A Marine of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was killed in action yesterday near the Fallujah, the U.S. military information center here reported. It was the second combat fatality in the unit in as many days.

Three rocket blasts at the Ishtar - commonly called the Sheraton - and Baghdad hotels about 7:30 a.m. inflicted little damage and no significant casualties. But troops inspecting the scene speculated that a larger assault had been planned.

Seventeen rockets were found in the charred wreckage of a pickup truck and minibus that had been used as mobile launch pads, suggesting that the third firing had set the platform ablaze and scuttled the rest of the planned attack.

Bracing for violence

Iraq's newly sovereign government has braced for intensified insurgency. Militant factions trying to undermine the U.S.-guided transition to democracy have threatened to kill interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

The toll from car bombs, artillery blasts and roadside improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, has been lower in the five days since the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority passed the reins of government to Allawi's team and chief administrator L. Paul Bremer III left the country.

Meanwhile, the daughter of Libyan leader Col. Muammar el Kadafi will help defend Saddam Hussein in court, a Jordanian lawyer and member of the legal team representing the former Iraqi dictator said yesterday.

Aicha Muammar Kadafi, a law professor, will form a Libyan law experts team to defend Saddam Hussein, Ziad al-Khasawneh told the Associated Press.

"The daughter of the Libyan president is welcomed to join us, and we consider her as an official member of the team," he said.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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