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Iraqi militants say Turkish driver beheaded

A video purporting to show the beheading of a Turkish driver kidnapped last month in Iraq surfaced Monday on the Web site of an al-Qaida-linked militant group that has executed other foreign hostages.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A videotape purporting to show the beheading of a Turkish driver kidnapped last month in Iraq surfaced Monday on the Web site of an al-Qaida-linked militant group.

On the video, the victim identifies himself as Durmus Kumdereli. Speaking in Turkish, he says he was transporting goods to an American military base in Mosul. Arabic subtitles accompanied his words.

Afterward, a black screen with a title reading “the execution” appears, followed by warnings from masked, armed militants to foreign drivers and grisly footage of the beheading.

The video, which was digitally dated Aug. 17, could not be verified. It was posted on the Web site known for carrying statements from Tawhid and Jihad, a group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that has beheaded other foreign hostages.

Militants' Web site resurfaces
The Web site had been inaccessible in recent days before resurfacing Monday at a new address.

Kumdereli was abducted Aug. 14 outside Mosul after delivering water to a U.S. base in Baghdad. Another Turkish driver, Mustafa Koksal, was taken hostage with him, but four days later, the Turkish government said he had been rescued.

In the video, the man who identified himself as Kumdereli, reading from a piece of paper, was standing next to another hostage. The militants identified the second man only as another driver whom they decided to release because he had been abducted before a warning was issued. It was not clear who he was or what warning they referred to.

According to the Arabic subtitles, Kumdereli advised Turkish drivers not to haul supplies to Iraq. He also called on Turkish companies and the Turkish government to consider the interests of Turks and the Iraqi people and stop supporting the occupation.

Three militants appear in the video under a black banner of the Tawhid and Jihad; two were carrying guns and the third read from a statement.

Warning to drivers
"We have forewarned. ... We will slaughter this driver and release the other," the man read. "Let it be known from today, any drivers with us will see nothing but slaughtering, whether Arabs or non-Arabs."

Last month, Murat Yuce, a Turk who worked for a company that provided laundry services, was shot to death in Iraq by al-Qaida-linked militants loyal to al-Zarqawi, who is held responsible for a series of bombings, kidnappings and other attacks in Iraq.

In a separate kidnapping case in early September, a tape purporting to show three Turkish hostages being killed was sent to al-Jazeera TV from the Tawhid and Jihad militant group, which also is linked to al-Zarqawi. The bodies of two slain Turkish citizens and an unidentified man were discovered in northern Iraq later but it could not be confirmed whether the bodies found in northern Iraq belonged to the three men in the video.

Italian official seeks release of 2 women
In Kuwait City, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini appealed for a “civilized dialogue” between religions as he stood inside Kuwait’s Grand Mosque at the start of a Middle East visit he hopes will help win the release of two Italian women kidnapped in Iraq.

The Italian government has been working feverishly to free the women, who were seized Sept. 7, weeks after an Italian freelance journalist was abducted and slain in Iraq. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government had been sharply criticized for not doing enough to secure the journalist’s release.

In the latest kidnapping, armed militants stormed into the Baghdad office of the aid agency Un Ponte Per (“A Bridge To...”) and grabbed the two Italian women and two Iraqis.

In brief remarks in the Grand Mosque, the country’s largest house of worship, Frattini said: “This holy place is a place to start a civilized dialogue between religions.”

“I feel so much solidarity for the hostages, in heart and words, and I want to seize this opportunity to appeal to you [the people of Kuwait] to help us release all the hostages, the Italian hostages in particular.”

Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Al-Jarallah, said Italy had not asked “for specific efforts ... of mediation or negotiations,” but said his country is ready to help if requested.