Militants slaughter 11 Iraqi soldiers abducted south of Baghdad
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – A militant group in Iraq posted a brutal scene on an Islamic militant Web site: the deaths of eleven Iraqi soldiers, executed one by one. The video was accompanied by a message warning all Iraqi police and soldiers to desert – or face death.
One of the soldiers was beheaded, and the rest were shot execution style. The insurgents declared on an Islamic militant Web site Thursday that Iraqi fighters will avenge “the blood” of women and children killed in U.S. strikes on the guerrilla stronghold of Fallujah.
The wave of foreigner kidnappings claimed another victim – a Polish woman in her 60s who is married to an Iraqi. Her captors demanded that Poland withdraw its 2,400 soldiers and that the U.S.-led coalition free all Iraqi women held at Abu Ghraib prison.
The killing of the 11 Iraqi National Guardsmen was claimed by the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, which posted a videotape of their deaths on its Web site Thursday. The militants said earlier the soldiers were abducted this week on the road between Baghdad and Hillah, 60 miles to the south.
After forcing each of the soldiers to state his name and unit, the militants forced one of them to the ground and sawed off his head. The others were forced to kneel with their hands bound as a gunman fired shots into the back of their heads.
A voice on the videotape warned all Iraqi soldiers and police to “repent to God, abandon your weapons, go home and beware of supporting the apostate Crusaders or their followers, the Iraqi government, or else you will only find death.”
“We will not forget the blood of our elderly, our women and our children that is shed daily in Fallujah, Samarra, Ramadi and elsewhere,” a statement on the Web site said.
The al-Sunnah movement has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks and hostage takings, including the slaying of 12 Nepalese hostages in August.
Elsewhere, two American soldiers were killed – one in a car bombing in Baghdad and the other in an ambush near Balad, 40 miles north of the capital. At least 1,111 U.S. service members have died since President Bush launched the Iraq war in March 2003.
U.S. Marines captured 16 suspected insurgents in a sweep south of Baghdad, bombed a suspected insurgent safe house in Fallujah and clashed with guerrillas in Ramadi.
In Tokyo, the Japanese government convened an emergency session Friday following a media report that a body found in Tikrit could be that of Shosei Koda, who was kidnapped by an al-Qaida group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The group on Tuesday threatened to behead the 24-year-old within 48 hours if Japan didn’t withdraw its troops, a demand rejected by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry said Friday that a body was found in Tikrit but that it was not Koda’s.
The video of the Polish hostage, also aired on Al-Jazeera, showed a middle-aged woman with gray hair wearing a polka-dotted blouse sitting in front of two masked gunmen, one of whom was pointing a pistol at her head.
The woman was identified as Teresa Borcz-Kalifa by one of her former superiors at the Polish Embassy in Baghdad, where she worked in the 1990s.
The woman, a longtime resident with Iraqi citizenship, was believed to have been abducted Wednesday night from her home in Baghdad, Polish authorities said.
She was the ninth foreign woman abducted in Iraq since a wave of kidnappings began last spring. By comparison, Iraqi officials say that at least 152 Iraqis have been kidnapped this month – the highest monthly total since the occupation began last year.
Borcz-Kalifa’s abduction was claimed by the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Fundamentalist Brigades. The kidnappers did not mention a specific death threat or give a deadline.
President Aleksander Kwasniewski said Poland would not surrender “to the dictate of terrorists” by meeting the demands. Poland commands some 6,000 troops from 15 nations in three provinces south of Baghdad.
All but two foreign women hostages have been released, and in a statement issued Thursday in London, CARE International appealed for the release of Margaret Hassan, a British-Irish-Iraqi citizen who has headed the humanitarian organization’s operations in Iraq since 1991.
“CARE has closed down all operations in Iraq,” the statement said in English and Arabic. “Please release Mrs. Hassan to her family and friends in Iraq.”
No group has claimed responsibility for kidnapping Hassan.
Meanwhile, the first wave of 75 British soldiers set up camp Thursday at their new base about 30 miles south of Baghdad, part of some 800 British troops moving closer to the capital to bolster U.S. forces.
U.S. and Iraqi forces are gearing up for a possible assault on Fallujah and other militant strongholds west of Baghdad if community leaders do not hand over foreign fighters and extremists, including al-Zarqawi and his followers.