Iraqi police arrest 45 crossing from Iran as Iraqi groups threaten to kill hostages

Published December 19th, 2004 - 03:29 GMT

Iraqi police arrested 45 men who illegally entered the country from neighboring Iran, and U.S. troops said Sunday they captured eight Iraqis fleeing the scene of a roadside bombing.

In addition, activists claiming to represent three Iraqi groups issued a videotape saying they had abducted 10 Iraqis working for an American security and reconstruction company.

The 45 detainees were captured Saturday at Mandali, on the Iranian border 60 miles east of Baghdad, police said. They had no identity documents but claimed to be Muslim pilgrims from Iran, Afghanistan or Bangladesh. They ranged in age from early 20s to 60s.

U.S. soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division detained eight men fleeing a roadside blast late Saturday near Beiji, some 150 miles north of Baghdad.
Master Sgt. Robert Powell said the soldiers captured the men after witnessing the explosion, but said it was unclear if the patrol was the target. No Americans were hurt. At least two unexploded homemade bombs were found in same area, the military said.

The activists on the tape said they represent the Mujahedeen Army, the Black Banner Brigade and the Mutassim Bellah Brigade, all previously unknown groups. At least four had their faces covered by Arab head scarves and carried machine guns. Nine blindfolded hostages could be seen lined up against a stone wall and a 10th lying in a bed, apparently injured.

The activists said they would kill the hostages if the company, Sandi Group, does not leave the country. They also threatened more attacks on its Iraqi operations, AP reported.

In the meantime, two Egyptians detained earlier this week by Iraqi and U.S. troops have been released, a diplomat said Sunday. Farouk Riyadh Mabrouk, head of the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Baghdad, said the two men — who are employed by the Egyptian-owned cell phone company Iraqna, were turned over to Egyptian authorities late Saturday.

When asked why the men were seized from their Baghdad home on Wednesday, Mabrouk would only say, "It was a big misunderstanding."


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