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12 Nepalese Hostages Are Slain In Iraq

First Mass Killing Displayed on Web

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 1, 2004; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Aug. 31 -- Islamic radicals in Iraq killed 12 Nepalese hostages, placing video images of the deaths on a Web site Tuesday, in the first mass slaying of foreign prisoners in the spate of kidnappings that insurgents began in April.

The video shows a masked man in military fatigues beheading a hostage who is lying blindfolded on dusty, gray soil. Eleven more prisoners are then killed by single shots to the back of the head as they lie facedown in a row.

Jit Bahadur Khadka, father of slain Nepalese hostage Ramesh Khadka, 19, is comforted by a relative at their home in a village near Katmandu. (Binod Joshi -- AP)

_____News from Nepal_____
Nepal Imposes Curfew in Restive Capital (Associated Press, Sep 1, 2004)
Government Imposes Curfew in Nepalese Capital (Associated Press, Sep 1, 2004)
Nepal Imposes Curfew in Restive Capital (Associated Press, Sep 1, 2004)
France Presses for Journalists' Release (Associated Press, Sep 1, 2004)
Gov't Imposes Curfew in Nepalese Capital (Associated Press, Sep 1, 2004)
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"Despite our efforts, this unfortunate incident has taken place," Nepal's ambassador to Qatar, Shyamananda Suman, told the Associated Press. "It is sad."

The men, kidnapped in August while traveling overland from Jordan to jobs in Iraq, were described by their Jordanian employer as cooks and cleaners. Nepal has no troops in Iraq, but the kidnappers had demanded that it stop sending contract workers to the country, according to the BBC. The executions appeared intended to frighten off the many foreigners who come to Iraq to work for U.S.-led forces.

"We have carried out the sentence of God against 12 Nepalis who came from their country to fight the Muslims and to serve the Jews and the Christians . . . believing in Buddha as their God," said a statement posted on the Web site by the Army of Ansar al-Sunna.

The group has claimed several terrorist strikes in northern and western Iraq. Experts believe it to be an outgrowth of Ansar al-Islam, a fundamentalist militia associated with al Qaeda that held a corner of northern Iraq until being driven out in April 2003 by U.S. Special Forces and Kurdish militias.

The killings more than doubled the number of hostages killed in Iraq since April, when the abduction of foreigners, the display of their images on the Internet or television and, in 11 previous cases, their executions emerged as a prime tactic of some insurgents in Iraq.

It also underscored the peril facing two French journalists who have been threatened with death by their captors.

France's foreign minister, Michel Barnier, traveled to Jordan from Egypt on Tuesday, then returned to Egypt in an urgent effort to win support for the release of Georges Malbrunot, 41, and Christian Chesnot, 37. The two were kidnapped on a chronically dangerous road south of Baghdad while heading toward Najaf in mid-August.

Their captors, who call themselves the Islamic Army in Iraq, have threatened to kill the men unless France repeals a ban on Islamic head scarves and other religious apparel in its public schools. The group released a video of the men pleading for the repeal.

French officials refused to change the law but have marshaled a wide variety of Arab and Muslim groups to condemn the use of kidnapping to pursue political goals.

Muslim groups in France that oppose the law joined with the country's secular establishment in calling for the journalists' immediate release. The Islamic group Hamas joined Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and various religious leaders in issuing a public statement of protest, as well.

"It is not in the interests of our cause," Muhammad Bashar Faydi of Iraq's Muslim Scholars Committee, a leading group from the Sunni branch of Islam that vehemently opposes the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, said of the kidnappings. "We can understand your rage over the French law that bans head scarves," Faydi said on the satellite network al-Arabiya, addressing the kidnappers. "But we have a bigger cause, which is the occupation of Iraq."

Many advocates pointed out that France opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and has a history of sympathy for Arab causes. French officials saw a glimmer of hope late Monday when the original 48-hour deadline for repeal was extended by 24 hours.

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