Turkey rejected on Sunday the demands of al Qaeda members in Iraq threatening to behead three Turkish hostages during US President George Bush's visit to Istanbul for a Nato summit.
The kidnappers, loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said in a statement to Al Jazeera television on Saturday that the three hostages would be executed within 72 hours unless Turkey stopped working with US-led forces in Iraq.
"Turkey has been fighting terrorist activity for more than 20 years," Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul told reporters in Istanbul, according to Reuters. "They ask many things, they demand many things. We never consider them with seriousness."
Al-Zarqawi group beheaded a South Korean citizen on Tuesday after Seoul rejected a demand to withdraw its forces from Iraq. The killing was filmed and posted on a Web site used by the group.
On his part, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday the United States is doing all it can to locate and free the three Turkish nationals.
"We hope it will be possible to rescue them, but it's a dangerous situation," Powell said in an interview from Turkey with CNN's "Late Edition."
"Once again this shows that we're dealing with a terrible terrorist organization, led by Mr. al-Zarqawi, that doesn't care about human life, that doesn't care about the Iraqi people," Powell noted.
Sean McCormack, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, called the threats to behead the Turks "an awful reminder of the barbaric nature of these terrorists." "But their acts will not shake the will of free people everywhere," he noted. (Albawaba.com)
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