An Islamist group that claims it is holding hostage an Italian journalist has given the Italian government 48 hours to withdraw its troops from Iraq. The group says the journalist's fate depends on the Italian government's compliance with its demand.

In a statement posted on the Internet, the Jihad Organization issued its latest threat to kill the Italian journalist taken hostage by armed men in Baghdad a week ago.

The group says it is giving the Italian government 48 hours to pull out of Iraq. The message said: "keeping Italian forces in the Land of the Two Rivers (Iraq) will lead to a bloody war."

The authenticity of the statement could not be confirmed and Italian officials questioned the reliability of the message.

Giuliana Sgrena, 57, who works for the leftist newspaper Il Manifesto was abducted last Friday after visiting a Baghdad mosque where she had been interviewing Sunni worshipers.

Il Manifesto newspaper has strongly opposed the U.S.-led conflict in Iraq. It has fiercely criticized Prime Minister Berlusconi's decision to deploy three-thousand troops in the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq.

Contradictory statements by Jihad Organization have been posted on various Islamist websites claiming her abduction. A statement from a separate Islamic group announced that the reporter had been killed.

Il Manifesto newspaper said earlier this week that it had received indications Ms. Sgrena is alive and that intelligence officials had established indirect contact with her kidnappers.

Italian government officials, the journalist's newspaper and colleagues have publicized her pacifist convictions in the hope it might help win her release.