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Iraqi Militants Threaten to Kill Hostages  - 2004-09-18

An Iraqi militant group says it has kidnapped 10 workers from a Turkish-American company and will execute them in three days if their employer does not leave Iraq.

Insurgents earlier claimed they had kidnapped two Americans and one Briton.

In a video released on the Arab television network al-Jazeera, three men, said to be the hostages appear blindfolded, kneeling on the floor. Standing behind them is a militant wearing a hood, who points a gun at each man's head in turn.

The insurgents, from an organization calling itself the Tawhid and Jihad Group, have demanded that the United States release all Iraqi women prisoners from jail within 48 hours, or else the hostages will be killed.

Americans Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley, along with Briton Kenneth Bigley were abducted early Thursday from their home in the wealthy Baghdad suburb of Mansur. All three are construction workers.

The Tawhid and Jihad Group is suspected of being linked with Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaida leader, who has claimed responsibility for a series of bloody attacks in Iraq and the abduction of foreigners.

Women prisoners are held in the Umm Qasr prison in southern Iraq, and in Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, the scene of past abuse of prisoners by U.S. guards.

So far, there has been no official reaction from U.S. authorities to the demands.

The seizure of the three hostages mirrors an incident earlier this month, when two Italian aid workers and two of their Iraqi colleagues were abducted from their central Baghad office. In addition, two French journalists remain missing.

Meanwhile, in the northern city of Kirkuk, a car bomb was detonated outside an office of the Iraqi National Guard, killing and wounding dozens. The bomb appears to have been aimed at people standing in line to apply for National Guard jobs.

It is the third time this week that Iraqi security forces have been targeted. In Baghdad, a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a row of police cars, killing three. The day before, another car bomb at a Baghdad police station left dozens dead.