Two hostages threatened with death in Iraq

Iraqi militants are threatening to kill a Turkish hostage if his company does not withdraw from Iraq within three days, private NTV television reported in Istanbul.

Iraqi militants are threatening to kill a Turkish hostage if his company does not withdraw from Iraq within three days, private NTV television reported in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, a militant group calling itself the Martyrs Brigade says it had kidnapped a missing journalist in Iraq and would kill him if US forces did not leave the holy city of Najaf within 48 hours, the pan-Arab television station Al-Jazeera reported.

NTV broadcast a video from a Turkish news agency showing hostage Aytullah Gezmen, who has been missing for three weeks, sitting on a couch and displaying his Turkish passport for the camera.

NTV quoted Gezmen as pleading for help from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and begging his family to ask the transportation company where he worked to withdraw from Iraq.

NTV said that militants threatened to kill him if the company did not withdraw within 72 hours.

Al-Jazeera showed a video released by the group that depicted a man, who resembled missing journalist Micah Garen, kneeling in front of five masked militants, who were armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

The hostage, who had a moustache, looked down at the ground throughout the video.

The sound was not audible, but the announcer said the kidnappers threatened to kill Garen within two days if US forces did not leave Najaf, where they have been fighting with militants linked to firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for two weeks.

The authenticity of the tape, monitored in Baghdad, was not able to be determined.

According to witnesses, Garen and his Iraqi translator, Amir Doushi, were walking through a market in the southern city of Nasiriyah on Friday when two men in civilian clothes and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles seized them, police said.

At the time of his abduction, Garen, 36, was working on a story about the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq, his fiance, Marie-Helene Carleton said.

Most of the insurgents behind the kidnappings of scores of foreigners in recent months have been Sunni Muslims, not those aligned with al-Sadr or other Shiite groups.

When Shiite militants in the southern city of Basra kidnapped Sunday Telegraph journalist James Brandon on Friday and threatened to kill him, al-Sadr’s aides condemned the move and pressured the kidnappers to release him, which they quickly did.

Garen worked for Four Corners media, identified on its web site as a “documentary organisation working in still photography, video and print media”.

He has taken photographs as a stringer for The Associated Press and had a story published in The New York Times. His photographs have also appeared in US News & World Report.

Neither US nor Iraqi forces had any word on Garen’s fate.

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