Six More Taken Hostage in Iraq
In April, three Japanese hostages were released unharmed here after the government in Tokyo refused to appease their kidnappers.
Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov said in Berlin that his government "will not give in to the terrorists' pressure" and that withdrawing his country's 480 infantry troops would only encourage further violence.
Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka said the threat would not alter Warsaw's commitment to keeping 2,400 troops here.
"The decision by the Philippines government only increases the danger for others," Belka said, echoing criticism by U.S. and Iraqi officials. "It is a very clear example of how, when you bow to the pressure of terrorists, you increase the danger to others."
More than 60 foreigners from at least 20 nations -- including Turkish truck drivers, French journalists, Italian security guards and South Korean missionaries -- have been taken hostage in Iraq in recent months. Most have been released, but several have been killed by their captors and several others rescued.
Despite a recent surge in violence, including kidnappings, car bombings and assassinations, senior U.S. and Iraqi officials gave a relatively optimistic assessment on Wednesday of the security situation in Iraq since the transfer of political authority from U.S. to Iraqi authorities June 28.
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, traveling in Jordan, said the "number of security incidents" has started to drop. "It's true the intensity of attacks is now taking a more violent turn, but their numbers have actually fallen gradually," he told Jordanian television.
A senior U.S. military official, briefing journalists on condition of anonymity, said the number of attacks has remained at about the same level as before the transfer, with fewer direct attacks against U.S. military targets but more against Iraqi security forces and civilians.
"They are relying more on indirect fire, rockets and mortars" against U.S. military targets, the official said. The overall number of attacks, about 30 to 40 a day, has not changed much, "but they tend to be a few more spectacular attacks, including car bombs and even some suicide attacks, which are more devastating."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company