TV airs alleged video of hostage in Iraq

/ Source: The Associated Press

A new videotape issued in the name of an Islamic militant group shows a Lebanese hostage in Iraq pleading for his government to secure his release.

The hostage, Habib Khalil Samour, is one of three Lebanese believed to have been kidnapped by militants last week in Iraq. One was released after his parents paid an undisclosed sum to his captors. The third, who was captured separately, was killed and his body dumped beside a road near Baghdad.

The video, which was broadcast Monday on the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya, was taped by a group calling itself the Islamic Rage Battalion, which the channel said had not been heard of previously.

The tape showed a man said to be Samour — bald with a white beard and a light blue shirt — sitting against a white wall. Painted in black Arabic script on the wall was the Muslim saying “There is no God but God and Muhammad is his Prophet.”

Underneath the quote was the name Islamic Rage Battalion. The tape did not show any kidnappers.

Looking haggard, Samour appealed to the Lebanese government “to get me out of this predicament, which I don’t know how I got into.”

He thanked the kidnappers for their “good treatment.” A vase of pink and white flowers stood on either side of him.

No word on militants’ demands
Al-Arabiya, which is based in Dubai, also screened a copy of Samour’s identification card and a picture of a statement it received from the Islamic Rage Battalion.

Neither the video nor the statement clarified what the militants’ demands were for Samour’s release. Al-Arabiya said the statement accused Samour of “leading a spy ring” of mostly Iraqis.

On the video, Samour says: “I work with a marketing company that I think was presenting some reports. ... I came to Baghdad after the fall of Baghdad to carry out studies about the psychology and opinion of Iraqis.”

An employee in Al-Arabiya’s newsroom declined Monday night to say when and how the channel received the statement and videotape. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

Militants have kidnapped numerous foreigners in Iraq in recent months. While many have been from nations participating in the U.S.-led coalition, the victims have also included Turks, Kuwaitis, Egyptians and Palestinians.

Lebanon, which opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq, has had a growing trade relationship with Iraq in recent years. The two states signed a free-trade accord in 2002. In recent months, hundreds of Lebanese, mainly contractors and industrialists, have gone to Iraq to look for business in the postwar reconstruction.