Video shows kidnapped election workers
KABUL, Afghanistan – Militants released a video Sunday showing three frightened foreign U.N. hostages pleading for their release and threatened to kill them unless United Nations’ and British troops leave Afghanistan and Muslim prisoners are freed from U.S. jails.
In the tape, the hostages – Annetta Flanigan of Northern Ireland, Filipino diplomat Angelito Nayan and Shqipe Habibi of Kosovo – are shown sitting hunched together against the bare wall of a room in an undisclosed location. The three answered questions from someone who is speaking to them in broken English from off camera.
Both women are crying, but the trio look healthy and unharmed.
The Iraq-style abduction could put a brake on the country’s post-Taliban recovery and overshadow the crowning of U.S. favorite Hamid Karzai as its first democratically elected president. The three, who helped organize the Oct. 9 election, were snatched from a U.N. vehicle on a busy Kabul stree Thursday.
In the video, obtained by Associated Press Television News in Pakistan, the questioner repeatedly asks the captives why they have come to Afghanistan, then asks why America and NATO have sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We have nothing to do with America,” Nayan says calmly. “We are here for the Afghan people.” He adds later: “We all want to go home to our families. We are United Nations workers. We want to go home to our kids and to our parents.”
Habibi explains that she is from Kosovo – the mainly Muslim autonomous region of Serbia – but her abductor seems unsure where that is.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, the interim prime minister on Sunday warned that efforts to resolve the standoff in Fallujah peacefully have entered their “final phase” and said he will not hesitate to launch “a military solution” to end Sunni insurgents’ hold over the city.
A rocket slammed into the Sunubar Hotel in Tikrit late Sunday, killing 15 Iraqis and wounding eight others, hospital officials said. Insurgents may have been aiming at an American position, which was targeted by a second rocket. U.S. officials said no American casualties were reported.
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s warning, delivered in a nationally televised news conference, occurred as U.S. forces prepare for a showdown with thousands of militants holed up in Fallujah – the city that has become the focal point of armed resistance to the Americans and their Iraqi allies.
Allawi appeared to be aiming to prepare the Iraqi public for an onslaught likely to unleash strong passions, especially among the country’s Sunni Muslim minority.
He warned of civilian casualties, saying that if he orders an assault it would be with a “heavy heart,” because “there will be some loss of innocent lives.”
“But I owe, owe it to the Iraqi people to defend them from the violence and the terrorists and insurgents,” he said.
U.S. and Iraqi commanders want to put down guerrillas before vital elections due to be held by Jan. 31, which Allawi insisted will take place as scheduled. On Sunday, insurgents in Fallujah fired mortar rounds and rockets at U.S. Marines, who responded with artillery. U.S. aircraft also struck suspected rebel positions.