BAGHDAD, Iraq — A militant group claimed Monday to have killed a Turkish and an Iraqi hostage, but two Indonesian women who had been held captive were released, according to media reports.
The Arab news network Al-Jazeera reported that it had received video footage from a group calling itself the Salafist Brigades of Abu Bakr Al-Sidiq saying that it had killed two hostages — a Turk and an Iraqi who was a longtime resident in Italy – because they were spies. The claim could not immediately be verified.
A segment broadcast on the network showed four armed militants dressed in black standing behind two kneeling men.
Al-Jazeera identified the Iraqi as Anwar Wali but did not give the Turkish man's name.
Brother says family notified of death
Wali's brother, Emad, said the Italian Foreign Ministry had informed the family about the killing but did not provide any details about when he was killed or how Italian officials had confirmed the slaying. He spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from the family's home in Castelfranco Veneto in northeast Italy.
Anwar Wali was kidnapped at the end of August from his Baghdad office.
He had lived in Italy since the early 1980s and was married to an Italian woman. According to his brother, Wali had formally applied for Italian citizenship and the request had been pending.
Wali worked for a furniture company, and last week an Italian business association of wood furniture makers appealed to the Italian government to work for his release.
The appeal came on the heels of the release Sept. 28 of two Italian women who were kidnapped in Baghdad, where they had been working as volunteer aid workers. The Italian government has denied news reports that ransom was paid for the women, but a top member of parliament has said he believes the government paid for their release.
Indonesian women released
Meanwhile, two Indonesian women held hostage by Iraqi militants were handed over on Monday to the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Baghdad, Abu Dhabi Television reported.
The UAE's state-owned television showed footage of the two veiled women, who appeared in good health. A UAE diplomat told the television station they would be handed over to the Red Cross in Iraq.
“There is no Indonesian embassy in Iraq so we received them for humanitarian reasons. We are now coordinating with the Red Cross to hand them over,” the diplomat said.
The Islamic Army in Iraq said last week it had kidnapped the women among a group 10 hostages, including six Iraqis and two Lebanese men.
The group later offered to release the women if Jakarta freed cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, detained on suspected terrorism links. But the Indonesian Muslim cleric refused to be freed in exchange for the women, and Indonesia also said it would not free him.
Group believed to hold at least 10 others
It was not clear what the fate of the remaining eight hostages was.
The Islamic Army in Iraq is believed to be the same group holding two French journalists hostage for more than a month.
Insurgents have used kidnappings and grisly beheadings in their 17-month campaign to drive the United States and its allies out of Iraq. More than 140 foreigners have been kidnapped since April, some as political leverage and others for ransoms. At least 26 have been killed.
Also on Monday, Paul Bigley, brother of British hostage Kenneth Bigley, said his brother may have been handed over to a new group.
“I am getting communiques from dear friends of mine — business friends and personal friends — who are based in Kuwait ... that Ken possibly, and I reiterate possibly, has been handed over from the political baddies to the regular baddies,” Paul Bigley told Sky News.
He said he had also heard that those holding his brother would “like to negotiate a financial settlement.”
Bigley said his information had originally come from a newspaper in Kuwait, which on Saturday reported that an Iraqi militant group was prepared to enter negotiations for the release of Kenneth Bigley.
Newspaper predicted Italians' release
The same newspaper accurately predicted the release of two Italian aid workers last week.
A spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office said could give no further information on Bigley’s situation. “We have seen those reports and we are looking into them,” he said.
To the agony of his family, video footage of a distressed-looking Bigley was released last week picturing him chained and squatting in a cage. He bitterly chided British Prime Minister Tony Blair for not negotiating with his captors.
Blair has insisted his government will make no deals but has appealed for the hostage-takers to make contact.
Two bodies, those of a woman and a man whose head was severed, were found Sunday 12 miles south of Baghdad. Police said the corpses looked like those of Westerners.
Police Lt. Hussein Rizouqi said no identification was found on the corpses. The woman, who was shot in the head, had blonde hair, he said.
There was no word Monday on the identities of the victims.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.