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Middle east

US military contractor is kidnapped in Baghdad

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-07

A Shiite Islamist group, the League of the Righteous, has posted an Internet video showing a hostage who appears to be a contractor for an American firm reported missing in Iraq by the Pentagon.

AFP - A Shiite Islamist group on Saturday posted an Internet video showing a hostage in US military uniform who appears to be a contractor for an American firm reported missing in Iraq by the Pentagon.

The video surfaced shortly after a US defence department statement said civilian contractor Issa T. Salomi, 60, of El Cajon, California, had been missing since January 23 and a search launched to find him.

The unnamed man in the video is pictured against a black flag bearing the name of the League of the Righteous, the Shiite militant group which kidnapped British IT expert Peter Moore and his bodyguards in Baghdad in May 2007.

In a video that runs less than two minutes, he read out the group's demands for the release of Iraqi prisoners and conviction of employees of US security firm Blackwater, since renamed as Xe Services.

"The second demand is to bring the proper justice and the proper punishment to those members of the Blackwater company that have committed unjustifiable crimes against innocent Iraqi citizens," the hostage said.

"I also would like to relay the justifiable demand of the Iraqi Islamic resistance for the complete withdrawal from Iraq, so Iraq can become a sovereign nation."

The hostage said he was in good health.

"I would like to express to all the members of my family, especially my wife, my children and my friends and to assure everybody that I'm being treated kindly and I'm in good health," said the man.

If the kidnapping is confirmed, it will be the first such case involving a foreigner in Iraq since the same group kidnapped five Britons in 2007.

US Vice President Joe Biden announced during a visit to Baghdad in January that Washington will appeal a judge's decision to clear five US security guards accused of killing 14 unarmed Iraqis in 2007 while working for Blackwater.

The guards, who had been part of a convoy of armoured vehicles, had been charged with killing the civilians and wounding 18 others in an attack using guns and grenades at a busy Baghdad square.

The League of the Righteous released British computer expert Peter Moore unharmed last December after 31 months in captivity during which all four of his British bodyguards abducted with him are thought to have been killed.

The group said in March last year that a deal was in place to release the Britons in exchange for prisoners being held by US forces in Iraq.

The following month, Iraq's Committee for National Reconciliation, established by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki four years ago, said it was holding talks with the League of the Righteous.

And in June last year, the militant group's leader Laith al-Khazaali was freed from a US prison, around the same time the bodies of two of Moore's bodyguards were handed over to Britain.

Around 200 other detainees were freed in September, when a third bodyguard's body was transferred.

Negotiations over the British hostages were handled by Khazaali's brother, Sheikh Qais al-Khazaali, who was released on January 5, 2010.

The Foreign Office in London denied any deal was done, saying the United States transferred Khazaali into Iraqi custody under the terms of a bilateral agreement.

A senior leader of the League of the Righteous, however, told AFP on January 27 the group was considering ending reconciliation talks.

"It (the government) did not release the detainees, and there are lots of detainees who are still in jail," said Salam al-Maliki. "The government and the occupiers arrested again some of the leaders of the group."

Date created : 2010-02-06

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