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Filipino Held Hostage In Iraq

Rescue workers and people search for possible survivors in the debris of a destroyed house in Okcular village in the eastern province of Elazig, Turkey, Monday, March 8, 2010, hours after a strong earthquake, with a preliminary magnitude of 6, hit eastern Turkey eaarly Monday, killing at least 57 people and knocking down houses in at least six small villages, the government said. The quake affected villages near the town of Kovancilar, toppling stone or mud-brick homes and minarets of mosques, officials and media reports said. The worst-hit area was the village of Okcular where some 17 people were reported killed and homes crumbled into piles of dirt.(AP Photo )
AP Photo
Al-Jazeera television Wednesday broadcast a videotape of armed men holding a Filipino hostage and threatening to kill him unless the Philippines withdraws its small force from Iraq within 72 hours.

The three armed men who issued the threat stood behind the seated hostage with a banner behind them that read the "Iraqi Islamic Army - Khaled bin al-Waleed Corps," a previously unknown group. The name Khaled bin al-Waleed is that of one of the military commanders of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet gave al-Waleed the title "Sword of Islam."

Al-Jazeera reports that the hostage, whose name has not been given, is an employee of a Saudi company that works for the U.S. military.

Al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said the channel received the videotape Wednesday. The video does not include any details of how the hostage was captured, but the terrorists do claim to have killed an Iraqi who was guarding the Filipino, and that Iraqi's ID papers are displayed in the video.

The card, issued by Al-Ghadeer Security Service, bore the name Hafidh Amer, identified as a security guard. The footage also showed a weapons authorization card with the same name.

The Philippines has 51 soldiers, police officers and health workers in the multinational force in Iraq. In addition, about 4,100 Filipinos are working at U.S. military bases in Iraq as cooks and maintenance technicians.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered her government Thursday to stop sending Filipino contract workers to Iraq after one reportedly was abducted there, but made no immediate decision on kidnappers' demands to withdraw peacekeepers.

"She just ordered an immediate stop to the deployment of new workers going to Iraq," Arroyo spokesman Ignacio Bunye told The Associated Press. "And then she is asking for an assessment from our Middle East team."

In other recent developments:

  • The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon says it has "credible information" that missing U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun is safe in his native Lebanon, but hasn't been able to confirm it. The embassy's comment comes after numerous conflicting reports on Hassoun's whereabouts and condition. At one point he was reported to have been killed; his family said they were told he was alive. Wednesday the family said they hadn't heard directly from him and didn't know; a June 27th video apparently from terrorists contained the threat that he would be beheaded.
  • A group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq is claiming responsibility for the March 31 killings of four American contractors whose bodies were mutilated in Fallujah. The claim is made in a CD-ROM obtained by Time magazine that also shows footage purported to be of the attack, identification papers of the victims and papers with the logo of their company, Blackwater Security Consulting.
  • Six people were hurt in a mortar attack near the home of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the headquarters of his Iraq National Accord party in a strike that came hours after the prime minister signed a law allowing the imposition of military law. Elsewhere, the U.S. military said four Marines were killed.
  • Barham Saleh, Iraqi deputy prime minister for national security, says the Cabinet is discussing amnesty for some guerrillas who fought coalition troops before the sovereignty transfer. Saleh says the government is deliberating how to give "people an opportunity to reintegrate within society" while at the same time "remaining firm against people who have committed atrocities and have committed crimes against the people of Iraq and against the coalition forces that have come to help us overcome tyranny."
  • A senior Pentagon official obtained inside information on contracts in Iraq by pretending to be a Defense Department investigator, then used the information to campaign for contracts for friends, the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • A joint Pentagon-Energy Department operation has removed 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium from a former nuclear research site in Iraq. The material had been sealed off after the Gulf War, but could have been used in a terrorist dirty bomb.
  • A car bomb blew up in the town of Khalis on Tuesday, killing 13 people attending a wake for the victims of a previous attack. The attack in Khalis, near the city of Baqouba, came two days after gunmen fired at a building belonging to a city council official, killing two people and wounding two. The attack Tuesday targeted the wake for those killed in that attack, who rebels view as collaborators with coalition troops.
  • Before the invasion of Iraq, the CIA reportedly was told by Iraqi scientists' relatives that the country's weapons of mass destruction programs had ended. That's according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report quoted by the New York Times, which says the CIA did not pass on that information to President Bush as he prepared the administration's case for going to war against Iraq.
  • The terrorist group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for an attack on U.S. forces in western Baghdad earlier this week, according to a statement posted on an Islamic Web site.

    The United States is offering $25 million for information leading to the capture of terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is suspected of being behind a series of coordinated attacks on police and security forces that killed 100 people only days before U.S. forces handed over power to an Iraqi interim government.

    His followers have also claimed responsibility for the beheading of American Nicholas Berg and South Korean Kim Sun-il.

    An armed vigilante group calling itself the "Salvation Movement" threatened on Tuesday to kill al-Zarqawi for insurgency attacks that have killed Iraqis.

    Wednesday's mortar attacks are the second time that Allawi's party, the Iraqi National Accord, was targeted. In the days before U.S. officials handed over power to Allawi's interim government on June 28, insurgents overran the offices of the Iraq National Accord party in Baqouba, an insurgent hotspot north of the capital, Baghdad. No one was hurt in that assault.

    The attacks came only hours after Allawi was set to unveil the law formally. The new law gives Iraqi officials the ability to institute martial law for limited periods of time and under special circumstances.

    "We realize this law might restrict some liberties, but there are a number of guarantees," Justice Minister Malik Dohan al-Hassan said during a news conference announcing the law Wednesday.

    "The borders are still open for infiltrators and, as a result, the security situation is unstable," said Imad Hussein al-Shebeeb, a senior member of the Iraq National Accord party.

    "The lives of the Iraqi people are in danger, they are in danger from evil forces, from gangs from terrorists," said Human Rights Minister Bakhityar Amin.

    Amin compared the law to the U.S. Patriot Act.

    The law gives Allawi the right to assign curfews to specific areas, to conduct cordon and search operations and detain individuals with weapons on them.

    It also gives Allawi the right to assign governors, including military leaders, to be in charge of specific area.

    Justice Minister Malik Dohan al-Hassan said the premier would need to get warrants from an Iraqi court before he could take each additional step and said martial law could only be declared for 60 days or for the duration of the specific violence, whichever is shorter.

    In its current form, the new law calls for the revision of emergency measures every 60 days, contingent on the approval of the Cabinet, including the president and the country's two vice presidents, said an official in the Defense Ministry speaking on condition of anonymity.

    "There will not be an automatic renewal of the law," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. It will be revised "so that we don't have emergency laws in place for 20 years."