Kidnapping surge continues in Iraq with 2 Turks seized

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi militants said Saturday they had kidnapped two Turks and threatened to behead them within 48 hours, the latest in the country’s wave of abductions, even as efforts intensified to free seven truck drivers taken captive by other insurgents.

The Tawhid and Jihad group of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi demanded the Turks’ employers leave Iraq in a videotape aired on Al-Jazeera television, which showed three masked, black-garbed gunmen standing behind two seated men holding various forms of identification, including what apparently were Turkish passports.

Al-Jazeera identified the men as two Turkish truck drivers working for a Turkish company delivering goods to U.S. forces in Iraq. The network said the militants threatened to decapitate the men if their demands were not met.

Militants loyal to al-Zarqawi have claimed responsibility for a number of bloody attacks and beheadings of previous foreign hostages, including U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg, South Korean translator Kim Sun-il and Bulgarian truck driver Georgi Lazov.

In Fallujah, west of Baghdad, huge explosions were heard late Saturday as fighting resumed between U.S. forces and Iraqi insurgents. Men bellowed through mosque speakers for doctors to go to hospitals and for people to donate blood for the injured.

An official at the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad said he saw the broadcast but had no further details on the men’s capture. The tape did not indicate when exactly the 48-hour period ends.

In another abduction, a Lebanese citizen was snatched in Baghdad early Saturday, a Lebanese Foreign Ministry official said. The official said no contact had been made with the kidnappers and he had no further details.

The victim’s Iraqi driver, who also was taken but later released, identified the Lebanese man as Vlado Abu Ghadi, director of the Lara construction company.

More than 70 foreigners have been kidnapped by insurgents in recent months in a campaign aimed at pushing out international troops and companies backing reconstruction efforts. Many have been videotaped and paraded on TV screens surrounded by armed, masked men demanding that their countries withdraw.

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