Baghdad, Iraq Prominent Sunni Arab clerics and residents of a Baghdad neighborhood where four kidnapped Christian humanitarian workers had aided people appealed Friday for their release a day before a deadline set by their abductors to kill them.
The Canadian Islamic Congress to Iraq sent an envoy, Ehab Lotayef, to try to win the release of the humanitarian workers who were abducted two weeks ago. They include an American, two Canadians and a Briton and a group known as the Swords of Righteousness has set a Saturday deadline, threatening to kill them unless U.S. and Iraqi authorities free all prisoners.
A French aid worker and a German citizen also are being held by kidnappers.
"We hope that they would be released as soon as possible because Christmas is approaching and I hope that they will be with their families by then," Lotayef said.
During prayers in the al-Imam al-Aadam mosque in Baghdad's predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Azamiyah in north Baghdad, cleric Ahmed Hassan Taha demanded that the four charity workers be released.
"I stress on the necessity to release the four kidnapped foreigners who have helped the residents of Azamiyah," he said. "We ask those who have authority and power to do their best to release the four European people who work in Christian peace organization, in fact those activists were the first who condemned the war on Iraq."
A spokesman for the influential Association of Muslim Scholars, Abdel-Salam al-Qubaisi, said he hoped that the kidnappers were insurgents and not something else - an allusion kidnap-for-ransom gang. The association is thought to have links to some groups in the Sunni-led insurgency,
"I hope that the hostages are in the hands of people who reject the occupation," he told a news conference. "I think that those abducted are doves of peace who reject that the occupation, they must be rewarded not imprisoned."