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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Militants Say They'll Kill Abducted Envoys

A video showing the two Algerians is the first sign of them since they were kidnapped in Baghdad.

July 27, 2005|From Associated Press

CAIRO — Al Qaeda in Iraq said it would kill two Algerian diplomats who had been abducted in Baghdad, and a video made public Tuesday showed the men blindfolded and in captivity.

In the video, Ali Billaroussi and Azzedine Belkadi gave their names and home addresses. It was the first time they had been seen since being kidnapped at gunpoint last week.

A statement attributed to Al Qaeda in Iraq and posted on the Internet earlier Tuesday said the group would kill the diplomats. There was no word on whether the threat had been carried out.

In Algeria's capital, a top aide to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said the government was worried by the death threat but still hoped to negotiate the release of its envoys.

Abdelaziz Belkhadem, the aide, told Algerian state radio that the government was "exploring all possibilities to shed light on this affair and to free our two diplomats." He said officials were using more than "classic diplomatic channels to make contact" but did not elaborate.

Neither the video nor the statement could be authenticated.

Billaroussi, 62, and Belkadi, 47, were abducted Thursday along with their driver in west Baghdad's upscale Mansour district, police and Algerian officials said.

Iraq's Interior Ministry reported Monday that it had detained two people for questioning about the kidnapping.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, has also claimed responsibility for attacking three other diplomats from Muslim nations.

Egyptian envoy Ihab Sherif, 51, was seized July 2. Zarqawi's group later said Sherif had been killed, and Cairo affirmed that claim.

After Sherif's kidnapping, gunmen in Iraq fired on envoys from Pakistan and Bahrain in what police said were kidnapping attempts.

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