A kidnapped British journalist has told his captors: “I’m a journalist, I just write about what is happening in Iraq."
The 23-year-old reporter then confirmed to the camera in video broadcast today: "(I’m) James Brandon from the Sunday Telegraph.”
Brandon was kidnapped in the southern city of Basra today and threatened with death if US forces did not pull out from the Shiite holy city of Najaf in 24 hours.
He was taken from the Diafa Hotel by around 30 gunmen, some dressed as police, said Captain Hashem Abdullah of the Iraqi police.
He was shot twice in the leg and hours later a video tape released in the city showed a hooded militant standing next to the journalist and threatening to kill him if the attack on Najaf was not stopped.
“We demand the American forces withdraw from Najaf within 24 hours or we will kill this British hostage,” the militant is heard saying.
Hotel staff showed a check-in form filled in by the man, identifying himself as James Brandon, 23, a journalist for The Sunday Telegraph.
Hotel owner Mohammed Uglah said gunmen found Brandon and shot at him after he tried to escape, hitting him across the head before taking him away. He earlier said that the journalist was shot twice in the leg.
The Sunday Telegraph said it was pursuing reports that Brandon had been taken hostage.
“James Brandon was in Basra filing material for this Sunday’s newspaper amongst other projects,” Sunday Telegraph deputy editor Matthew d’Ancona said. “We are pursuing his situation with the greatest concern.” He could not confirm that Brandon had been abducted.
Militants in Iraq have waged a campaign of kidnapping aimed at driving out individuals, companies and troops supporting US forces and the new Iraqi interim administration.
Scores of hostages have been kidnapped by armed groups. Some have been freed but nine have been killed.
The British Foreign Office said it had unconfirmed reports that a British national had been kidnapped in Basra.
“We’re trying to establish the facts and are working with the local authorities and trying to contact next of kin,” the department said.
There were reports later that Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s militant group had appealed for the kidnappers to release him.