Iraqi Terrorists' New Demands

Iraqi Army 2nd Battalion soldiers ride on patrol in the al-Dora section of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, July 20, 2004. The 2nd Battalion, trained in counter-insurgency operations, is the first unit to go into service with the new Iraqi Army.
Hours after the release in Iraq of Filipino and Egyptian hostages by kidnappers whose demands were met, new threats were issued against Japan, Poland and Bulgaria by terrorists demanding troop withdrawals from Iraq.

Meanwhile, a 1st Infantry Division soldier became the 900th U.S. military death in Iraq since the beginning of the war in March 2003. The soldier was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in a Bradley fighting vehicle in Duluiyah, some 45 miles north of Baghdad.

Japan is holding firm on its troops, despite a threat posted on a web site that Japanese soldiers in Iraq will be killed by "lines of cars laden with explosives" unless the tiny peacekeeping force is sent home.

Separate threats were issued against Bulgaria and Poland, telling them to withdraw their troops from Iraq or the two countries will "pay the price" just like the United States and Spain did - a reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington and the March 2004 train bombs in Madrid.

Bulgaria is also holding steady on its troops, despite a particularly tense situation due to two Bulgarian truck drivers having been taken hostage in Iraq. Reports that one of the hostages may have been executed have prompted some Bulgarian legislators and groups to demand Bulgaria bring its soldiers home. The fate of the second hostage is unknown.

"To the crusader Bulgarian government which is allying itself with the Americans and to the Bulgarian people we demand, for the last time, that you withdraw Bulgarian troops out of Iraq or we swear we will turn Bulgaria into pools of blood if you don't comply," said a statement attributed to the Tawhid Islamic Group, a previously unknown group that identifies itself as a European branch of al Qaeda.

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov said last Friday he will not pull out the country's 480-strong infantry battalion from Iraq. Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said ys now that only its parliament can change the mandate of its troops regarding Iraq.

In other recent developments:

  • A militant group said Wednesday it had taken two Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian hostage and would behead them if their countries did not announce their intention to withdraw their troops from Iraq immediately. However, none of those countries were part of the 160,000 member coalition force in Iraq.
  • A roadside bomb hit an Iraqi police patrol overnight in the Gharnata district of Kirkuk in the country's north, killing one policeman and injuring another.
  • Still another roadside bomb, near Baqouba, targeted an Iraqi police car carrying Diyala area's police chief in charge of electricity. Lt. Col. Ahmed Mahmoud was injured in the attack, along with three other police officers.
  • Four U.S. Marines were killed in separate incidents in Anbar Province, a Sunni-dominated area west of Baghdad. Two Marines were killed Tuesday while conducting "security and stability operations." Another Marine was killed in action Monday and a fourth died of wounds received in action Monday in Anbar.
  • In Samarra Tuesday, a hotbed of violence 60 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. forces and militants engaged in running gunbattles, the U.S. military said. Four Iraqis were killed and five were wounded, said Ahmed Jaddo, a hospital official. The military said U.S. soldiers returned fire at insurgents and destroyed the house they were in, while a U.S. warplane flattened another house with a 500-pound bomb.

    The Tawhid Islamic Group statement appeared Wednesday on an Islamic Web site known as a clearing house for al Qaeda and groups linked to the terror network. The authenticity of the statement and the group could not be verified.

    The group also had a warning for Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka: "Pull your troops out of Iraq or you will hear the sounds of explosions that will hit your country, at the time we choose."

    Poland, which hasn't commented yet, commands a 17-nation force in south-central Iraq and is required by a U.N. resolution to remain in Iraq until the end of 2005.

    Monday, the Philippines pulled out its 51-member peacekeeping contingent a month ahead of schedule to spare the life of 46-year-old truck driver Angelo dela Cruz who had been kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq. Dela Cruz was released in Baghdad on Tuesday. The United States, Australia and their allies warned that the pullout would encourage kidnappers and endanger other members of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

    The decision by the Philippines to pull out its troops from Iraq on Monday apparently did lead to the release of hostage Angelo dela Cruz - and widespread celebrations in his homeland over his freedom.

    But the Filipino military withdrawal has spared criticism from both Iraq and the U.S., on the grounds that cooperating with terrorists will endanger others.

    "All of us know that if you appease terrorism, you will sooner or later fall victim to it or be taken over by it," Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, said during a visit to Bahrain.

    More than 60 foreigners have been taken hostage in recent months.

    Of those foreign workers kidnapped in recent months, some escaped, many were released and at least three were beheaded in gruesome videos designed to spread fear.

    The terrorists, in their web site message, had a special warning for Muslims and anyone who supports Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi: "We are warning you for the last time: We will hit with an iron fist all those supporting the Americans or Allawi or his cronies."

    Allawi has asked some Muslim countries to contribute troops, but so far none has come forward. Iraq's fledgling interim government relies heavily on the 160,000 coalition troops to fight the 15-month-old insurgency, which has used car bombings, assassinations, sabotage and other violence to try to create chaos and drive out foreign forces.