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Pakistan Condemns Hostage Killings - 2004-07-29

The Pakistani government has denounced the slaying of two of its nationals by Iraqi militants, calling it a humanitarian and religious crime. Officials also dispute the militants' claim that Pakistan plans to send troops to Iraq.

In a statement Thursday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf expressed shock over the killings of the two contractors, calling it a crime against Islam and humanity.

In a videotape released Monday, militants in Iraq announced they had kidnapped driver Sajjad Naeem and engineer Raja Azad Khan, both contract workers for a Kuwaiti company. A second video reportedly showing their execution was released late Wednesday, with the militants claiming the two Pakistanis were U.S. spies and that Pakistan was planning to send troops to Iraq.

Speaking before the National Assembly in Islamabad, Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri said the militants' claim of a Pakistani troop deployment is wrong. "Pakistan had taken no decision to send its forces to Iraq. It is indeed very sad that despite these appeals and assurances, the captors decided for the gruesome murder of two innocent Pakistanis," he said.

Saudi Arabia this week suggested Muslim countries send a contingent of troops to Iraq in order to help provide security. But Pakistan has said it would only contribute troops under a United Nations force and the Foreign Ministry added Monday that no such plans are in the works for the near future.

Political opposition members of parliament responded to Mr. Kasuri's statement by urging the government never to send soldiers to Iraq.

Some members also argued that Pakistan's current pro-U.S. foreign policy is partly to blame for the Iraqi militants' anger at the country.

Mr. Kasuri also said the government is working to help the relatives of the two victims in claims against their Kuwaiti employers. "Our sympathies are with the bereaved families, and the Foreign Office is approaching the al-Tamimi Company for adequate compensation," said Mr. Kasuri.

He said the ministry is in touch with Iraqi government and religious officials to seek the return of the bodies.