Iraq Hostage Apparently Shot

Smoke rises over Baghdad from two church bombings that injured over 20 people. AP

Militants have apparently shot a Turkish hostage kidnapped in Iraq, according to a video posted on the Internet.

It was not clear when the hostage was killed and his name does not match those of the two Turkish truck drivers kidnapped in Iraq last week.

In the video, found on an Islamic Web site Monday, the Turk identifies himself as Murat Yuce from Ankara and says he worked for the Turkish company Bilin Tur.

In Ankara, a manager for Bilin Tur, Hasan Mecit, told The Associated Press the catering firm has an employee named Murat Yuce in Iraq, but it has no knowledge that he had been killed.

The video shows a man identified as a Turk kneeling in front of three armed men. The man reads a statement in Turkish and says he works for a Turkish company that subcontracted for a Jordanian firm.

"I have a word of advice for any Turk who wants to come to Iraq to work: 'You don't have to holding a gun to be aiding the occupationist United States ... Turkish companies should withdraw from Iraq," he says.

At the end of the statement, the leader of the three presumed kidnappers takes out a pistol and shoots the Turk in the side of the head. The Turk slumps to the ground, and the kidnapper shoots him in the head twice more. Blood is seen on the ground next to his head.

A black banner on the wall behind the kidnappers identfies the group as the Tawhid and Jihad, which is led by the Jordanian militant linked to al-Qaida, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The Turkish truckers association said Monday that it will no longer transport goods to U.S. forces in Iraq in an attempt to get kidnappers to release Turkish hostages.

In other recent developments:

  • Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist group, which has claimed responsibility for kidnappings and beheadings, said Monday that it will release a Somali truck driver it kidnapped because the Kuwaiti company he works for agreed to stop working in Iraq. That's according to a report on al-Jazeera television. No word on exactly when Ali Ahmed Moussa might be freed; he was facing a beheading threat.

  • Sunday, a Lebanese businessman taken hostage was released - a day after he was snatched by gunmen outside Baghdad. It wasn't immediately clear if a ransom was paid for Vladimir Damaa's release. The fate of another Lebanese businessman Antoine Antoun, abducted at the same time, is not known.

  • Newsweek reports a commission investigating the Abu Ghraib prison abuse is expected to assign some responsibility to senior civilian officials at the Pentagon, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld is expected to take heat for failing to provide adequate numbers of properly trained troops for detaining and interrogating captives in Iraq and Afghanistan, sources tell Newsweek. U.S. authorities released 128 prisoners from Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, bringing the total number of detainees released since January to 7,000.

  • Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Sunday that any Muslim and Arab forces sent to Iraq must be a replacement of coalition troops there. Saud said Iraq must request such a force "with the full and clear support of the Iraqi people." He said this force would operate under the umbrella of the United Nations and "will replace the coalition troops currently in Iraq, and not be in addition to it."

  • An al Qaeda-linked group gave Italy another 15 days to withdraw its troops from Iraq before sending "waves of earthquakes to erase your country," according to a statement sent to an Arabic newspaper Sunday. It was the fourth threat in two weeks against the key American ally.

  • A roadside bombing on Sunday near the town of Samarra hit a passing patrol, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding one other, the military said. At least 911 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq in March 2003.

    On Saturday, Tawhid and Jihad released a videotape saying it had kidnapped two Turkish truck drivers and threatened to behead them within 48 hours. The tape, which was broadcast on the pan-Arab TV channel Al-Jazeera, showed the men's Turkish passports, identifying them as Abdurrahman Demir and Said Unurlu.

    Al-Jazeera said the drivers worked for a Turkish company that delivered goods to U.S. forces in Iraq.

    In Ankara, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it could not confirm the killing of one of the Turkish hostages kidnapped last week in Iraq.

    The video carried a date in the Islamic calender - 13-4-1425 - which corresponds with June 1, 2004. It was not clear whether the tape was shot on that date, and released recently, or it was posted on the Internet on that date. ti-sf-jbm

    Iraq's top Shiite Muslim cleric on Monday condemned the coordinated attacks on churches in Baghdad and Mosul, saying they "targeted Iraq's unity, stability and independence."

    In a statement, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani described the assaults which killed 11 people and wounded over 50 as "criminal."

    Sunday's bombings targeted four churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul during evening services in the first major assault on Iraq's Christian minority since the 15-month-old insurgency began.

    "We condemn and reproach these hideous crimes and deem necessary the collaboration of everyone - the government and the people - in putting an end to aggression on Iraqis," said the cleric, who is based in the southern city of Najaf.

    "We assert the importance of respecting the rights of Christian civilians and other religious minorities and reaffirm their right to live in their home country Iraq in security and peace."

    The unprecedented attacks against Iraq's 750,000-member Christian appeared to confirm community members' fears they might be targeted as suspected collaborators with American forces amid a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism.

    No group claimed responsibility for the assaults.

    Many of Iraq's Christians have already fled to neighboring Jordan and Syria to escape violence in the insurgency-wracked nation.
    • Joel Roberts

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