Kidnappers issue final warning over journalist

The purported kidnappers of an Italian journalist abducted in Iraq claimed they are still interrogating her and said it is giving Rome a final warning to withdraw its troops from the country, according to a statement posted on the Internet today.

The purported kidnappers of an Italian journalist abducted in Iraq claimed they are still interrogating her and said it is giving Rome a final warning to withdraw its troops from the country, according to a statement posted on the Internet today.

Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, 56, was kidnapped on Friday by gunmen who blocked her car outside Baghdad University. Sgrena is a veteran reporter for the communist daily Il Manifesto.

A group calling itself the Islamic Jihad Organisation has claimed to have kidnapped her and has given Italy 72 hours to withdraw its troops from Iraq. But it made no threats to kill her or say what would happen if its demands were not met.

Today’s statement, released in the same group’s name, described Sgrena as an “Italian POW,” and said her fate ”will be announced by us in the near future”.

The statement, which could not be immediately verified, did not elaborate on her possible fate.

“We consider this as the last message to the Italian government … that there will be no security or stability as long as there is one Italian soldier in the land of Iraq,” said statement.

“We call upon our brothers in the Association of Muslim Scholars to be careful in their call to release the Italian POW,” the statement added.

“We are still investigating the POW and the judicial committee in the organisation will take its decision on that soon.”

The association’s spokesman, Sheik Omar Ragheb, called for Sgrena’s release, saying “she was doing a humanitarian job in Iraq and has nothing to do with the occupation forces”.

The journalist’s colleagues cited her anti-American stance, saying that holding her would damage the image of Iraq.

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