updated 8/13/2004 8:38:36 AM ET 2004-08-13T12:38:36

An Islamic Web site posted still pictures Friday that purportedly showed Iraqi militants beheading an Egyptian man who they claimed was spying for the U.S. military.

There was no way to verify the authenticity of the images, and there was no record that the man, identified on the Web site as Mohammed Fawzi Abdaal Mutwalli, had been kidnapped. The pictures are apparently stills from a video on the site that could not be accessed. The date of the beheading was not given.

A second Web site, an English-language site that does not appear to have political links, carried the video of the beheading. Neither site gave a date for the killing.

Police officials have said Mutwalli, 45, went to Iraq in 1986 to work as a car mechanic. He is single and comes from the village of Saqr in Dakahlia province in the Nile Delta, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials.

First reports came Wednesday
Reports of the beheading had first surfaced Wednesday, and Egyptian government officials could not confirm it. Friday's edition of the opposition newspaper Ahrar quoted the Egyptian Foreign Ministry as saying it had received no news of Mutwalli's kidnapping or killing.

Until Friday, there had been no evidence of an Arab hostage having been beheaded by Iraqi militants acting for political motives. A Lebanese Muslim hostage, Hussein Alyan, was killed this year, but his kidnappers may have had criminal motives as they made no political demands to spare his life.

The images show three masked men standing in front of a banner carrying the name and golden-sun logo of Tawhid and Jihad, the group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that has claimed responsibility for the beheading of other hostages in Iraq _ including American Nicholas Berg and the South Korean translator Kim Sun-il.

The pictures showed a man, with a mustache and an Arabic robe, sitting in front of the three masked men with his hands tied behind his back. Captions on the pictures of the hostage say: "From the Arab Republic of Egypt. Mohammed Fawzi Abdaal Mutwalli. I was working as a spy with the Americans in Iraq."

A statement that appeared on the Web site alongside the pictures said: "This is the story of the Egyptian traitor spy."

‘This criminal confessed’
"This criminal confessed that he was taking electronic devices from the Americans to throw them into the Mujahedeen's (holy warriors') locations so the Americans could identify the targets and raid them with planes and missiles."

The sequential pictures then show the man lying on the ground. A militant decapitates him with a knife and places his severed head on his back.

In the video shown on the second Web site, the militant who kills the hostage says in Arabic: "Today we are executing God's punishment on this criminal by beheading him."

The site shows only the video of the beheading, not the hostage's purported comments beforehand. It is an English-language site that offers recent beheadings in Iraq and Saudi Arabia as well as pornography.

The morality of killing Muslims who work for the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq has long been debated on Islamic extremist Web sites, but generally it has been considered justifiable.

A Turkish hostage, Murat Yuce, was shot dead by Tawhid and Jihad militants in an Internet video that appeared on Aug. 2. The kidnappers claimed he supported "the occupier."

Opinions have been mixed on taking Muslims hostage and beheading them, with some saying "fellow Muslims" should be spared and others saying they should be killed to deter Muslims from becoming "allied with the devil."

The alleged spiritual leader of Tawhid and Jihad, Sheik Abu Anas al-Shami, posted an audio tape on the Internet on July 28 in which he defended the killing of Muslims who work for "infidels" without opposition.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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