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Iraqi kidnappers extend deadline for hostages

A new videotape purportedly issued by the Iraqi kidnappers of three Romanian journalists and an American extended the deadline to meet their demands until Wednesday, Al-Jazeera television said.
Children from the Arab community in Romania hold banners during a rally in Bucharest for kidnapped journalists in Iraq
Children from the Arab community in Romania hold banners during a rally in Bucharest on Tuesday calling for the release of three Romanian journalists and their translator who were kidnapped in Iraq in late March.Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Iraqi kidnappers have issued a new video of the three Romanian journalists and one American they are threatening to kill, extending the deadline to Wednesday for Romania to withdraw its troops from Iraq, Al-Jazeera television said.

The militants said in the video they would begin killing the hostages at 6 p.m. Wednesday (1400 GMT) unless their demands were met, the network reported Tuesday.

The video showed the Romanian journalists — two men and a woman — sitting in handcuffs with pistols pointing at their heads. The woman, Marie Jeanne Ion, a reporter for Prima TV, could be seen talking to the camera and clutching her hands as if she were pleading.

Al-Jazeera did not broadcast Ion’s voice, but its presenter said the Romanians appealed to their president to withdraw the troops, and to the Romanian people to protest to save their lives.

A person was heard weeping for a couple of seconds after the Al-Jazeera presenter finished speaking.

One of the Romanian men, Sorin Miscoci, wore a red top. The video was too gray and grainy to ascertain whether the garment was an orange jumpsuit. Iraqi kidnappers in the past have put orange jumpsuits on their hostages before they killed them.

Call for President Bush’s help
The video then showed Mohammed Monaf, an Iraqi American who translated for the Romanians, sitting alone. A pistol was pointed at Monaf’s head, which had a scarf wrapped around it in the style of a turban.

Monaf pleaded to President Bush and the American people to save his life, the presenter said.

Al-Jazeera did not say how it received the tape or when.

In a video on Friday, the militants — calling themselves the “Muadh bin Jabal Brigades” — said they would kill the four unless Romania’s 800 troops in Iraq were pulled out by Tuesday.

The three, along with reporter Ovidiu Ohanesian from Romania Libera newspaper, were kidnapped in Baghdad on March 28.

More than 200 foreigners, including at least 25 Jordanians — have been kidnapped in Iraq since Saddam Hussein’s regime collapsed in April 2003. Some kidnappers have sought ransom, while others pursued political motives such as the withdrawal of foreign companies and troops from Iraq.

The kidnappers have killed more than 30 hostages.