Iraqi militants threaten to kill Japanese hostages
Iraqi militants put knives to the throats of three Japanese hostages and threatened to kill them unless Japan's troops leave the country, in a video aired on Thursday.
"You have three days from the date of this tape's airing," said the statement by the hitherto unknown group called Saraya al-Mujahideen (Mujahideen Brigades).
Parts of the tape were shown on Arab television Al Jazeera and other parts of what appeared to be the same tape were shown on U.S.-funded Arabic television Al Hurra.
The Al Hurra tape showed abductors putting knives to the throats of the hostages.
The hostages screamed "No Koizumi!" as they were forced to denounce Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
The statement said Japan had betrayed Iraqis by supporting the U.S.-led occupation.
Passports on the video named the woman as Nahoko Takato and the two men as Noriaki Imai and Soichiro Koriyama. At least one of them had a press card.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK said Takato was involved in relief work for children. Imai was doing field work on depleted uranium weapons and Koriyama was a freelance cameraman.
A spokesman at Japan's Foreign Ministry said they have seen the Al Jazeera report and were checking it.
Nudged by the United States, Japan has sent 550 non-combat troops to the southern city of Samawa to help rebuild Iraq
It is Japan's riskiest military deployment since World War II. Critics also say it violates Japan's pacifist constitution.
No Japanese soldier has fired a shot in action or been killed in combat since 1945 and casualties could undermine support for Koizumi's government ahead of Upper House elections in July.