Report: Japanese Hostage Killed

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A Japanese civilian taken hostage in Iraq by militants has been killed, Kyodo News agency reported Saturday, citing unidentified Japanese government officials.

Islamic militants had threatened on Tuesday to kill hostage Shosei Koda within 48 hours unless Japan withdrew its troops from Iraq. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi firmly rejected that demand, saying he would not give in to terrorists.

Kyodo said a body found in the city of Tikrit, Iraq, had been identified as Koda. The report could not be immediately confirmed early Saturday.

The ranks of foreign hostages in Iraq have grown again, with the kidnapping of a Polish woman in her 60s who is married to an Iraqi. Her captors are demanding that Poland withdraw its 2,400 soldiers and that the U.S.-led coalition free all Iraqi women held at Abu Ghraib prison.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski said Poland will not surrender "to the dictate of terrorists" by meeting the demands. Poland commands some 6,000 troops from 15 nations in three provinces south of Baghdad.

In other recent developments:

  • Two more American soldiers were killed - one in a car bombing in Baghdad and the other in an ambush near Balad, 40 miles north of the capital. At least 1,109 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of the war in March 2003.
  • U.S. Marines captured 16 suspected insurgents in a sweep south of Baghdad, bombed a suspected insurgent safe house in Fallujah and clashed with guerrillas in Ramadi.
  • Insurgents slaughtered 11 Iraqi soldiers, beheading one, then shooting the others execution-style. The Ansar al-Sunnah Army - linked to numerous other slayings and kidnappings, including the murders of 12 Nepalese hostages last August - is claiming responsibility for the attack. In a videotape of the killings posted on its web site, it warns all Iraqi police and soldiers to desert or face death.
  • The U.N. nuclear agency said Thursday it warned the United States about the vulnerability of explosives stored at Iraq's Al-Qaqaa military installation after another facility — Iraq's main nuclear complex — was looted in April 2003.
  • An armed group claimed in a video Thursday to have obtained a large amount of the missing explosives.
  • A survey of deaths in Iraqi households estimates that as many as 100,000 more people may have died throughout the country in the 18 months after the U.S.-led invasion than would be expected based on the death rate before the war. There is no official figure for the number of Iraqis killed since the conflict began, but some non-governmental estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000.
  • The first wave of 75 British soldiers set up camp Thursday at their new base about 30 miles south of Baghdad, part of some 800 British troops moving closer to the capital to bolster U.S. forces. Black Watch soldiers redeployed from Basra were told they will be pulled out of Iraq in early December.
  • Thursday, a videotape broadcast by Al-Jazeera television showed two truck drivers - from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - who were taken hostage. Al-Jazeera said the men, shown on the tape wearing flak jackets, worked for a Kuwaiti company.

    The Polish hostage, in a video on Al-Jazeera television, is seen sitting in front of two masked men, one of whom was pointing a pistol at her head.

    She is identified as Teresa Borcz-Kalifa by one of her former employers at the Polish Embassy in Baghdad, where she worked in the 1990s. Leszek Adamiec told Poland's private Radio Zet that Borcz-Kalifa worked in the consular section until 1994.

    Borcz-Kalifa, a longtime resident with Iraqi citizenship, is believed to have been abducted Wednesday night from her home in Baghdad.

    She is the ninth foreign woman abducted in Iraq since a wave of kidnappings began last spring. By comparison, Iraqi officials say that at least 152 Iraqis have been kidnapped this month - the highest monthly total since the occupation began last year.

    A terror group calling itself the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Fundamentalist Brigades has claimed responsibility for Borcz-Kalifa's abduction.

    Her voice is not audible on the tape, but Al-Jazeera said she urged Polish troops to leave the country and for U.S. and Iraqi authorities to release all female detainees from Abu Ghraib. The kidnappers did not mention a specific death threat or give a deadline.

    All but two foreign women hostages have been released, and in a statement issued Thursday in London, CARE International appealed for the release of Margaret Hassan, a British-Irish-Iraqi citizen who has headed the humanitarian organization's operations in Iraq since 1991.

    "CARE has closed down all operations in Iraq," the statement said in English and Arabic. "Please release Mrs. Hassan to her family and friends in Iraq."

    No group has claimed responsibility for kidnapping Hassan, but in a video aired Wednesday she is seen pleading for the withdrawal of British troops and the release of Iraq women prisoners.

    Several groups of hostage-takers have demanded the release of women prisoners in Iraq, including al-Zarqawi's organization. Two Americans and a Briton were beheaded last month after coalition forces refused the demand.