Archive for Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Terror group beheads hostage

Militants threaten more killings; victim was U.S. contractor

September 21, 2004

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— Grisly footage of militants beheading an American hostage was posted Monday night on a radical Islamic Web site, and the group that carried out the execution, Tawhid and Jihad, warned that more slayings would follow if U.S. officials didn't meet its demands.

In the nine-minute video, a man identified as Eugene Armstrong, a construction contractor working in Iraq, was seen rocking back and forth on the floor, blindfolded and dressed in an orange jumpsuit. Behind him were five masked men wearing black clothing.

The video shows a militant drawing a knife and slicing through the victim's neck, who gasps as blood spurts from his throat. The killer then raised the head and placed it on the victim's back.

U.S. officials wouldn't discuss the video, but one did confirm that the body of an American was recovered Monday night and that a "rough identification" showed it to be Armstrong.

Armstrong was one of three hostages kidnapped from a wealthy Baghdad neighborhood Thursday morning. The others are British engineer Kenneth Bigley, 62, and American Jack Hensley, 48.

More than 100 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq, some for lucrative ransoms, and at least 26 of them have been executed. At least five other Westerners are currently being held hostage, including an Iraqi-American man, two female Italian aid workers and two French reporters.

Tawhid and Jihad, which is led by suspected al-Qaida associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, demanded that U.S. officials release all women held at two Iraq prisons in exchange for the release of the hostages.

"You, sister, rejoice," said the killer, identified in the video as Zarqawi. "God's soldiers are coming to get you out of your chains and restore your purity by returning you to your mother and father."

The killer called President Bush "a dog" and said "cutting the heads of the criminal infidels is implementing the orders of our lord."

U.S. officials have said that only two Iraqi women are now in U.S. custody and that neither is detained at the prisons cited by Tawhid and Jihad. The two women, Rihab Taha and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, allegedly were part of ousted president Saddam Hussein's program to develop biological weapons.

For more than a week, U.S. fighter jets have made bombing runs in the restive city of Fallujah, where U.S. officials think Zarqawi has his base of operations.

U.S. forces bombed a construction site in Fallujah around 2 p.m. Monday, according to a statement released by the U.S. military. The attack killed five Iraqis and injured seven, according to hospital officials and witnesses who disputed U.S. military claims that equipment at the site was used by insurgents to build fighting positions.

Fallujah residents said U.S. forces dropped leaflets over the city offering a $10 million reward for information leading to Zarqawi's capture and others warning that the city would lose construction projects and much-needed jobs if Iraqi and coalition contractors were unable to enter the city.

"Decide now for the future of your families," the leaflets advised.

In Baghdad, two members of the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars were killed in separate attacks Sunday night and Monday morning. The clerics were gunned down in Shiite neighborhoods, alarming experts who fear such incidents could lead to civil war between Sunnis and Shiites.

In the northern city of Mosul, an explosives-packed car detonated, killing its two passengers and a passer-by.

And a U.S. soldier on patrol in Sharqat, about 170 miles north of Baghdad, was killed when insurgents attacked with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

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