Two Palestinians kidnapped in Iraq - TV report
Insurgents in Iraq have kidnapped two Palestinians with Israeli identity cards and accused them of spying for Israel, according to footage shown on Thursday by an Iranian TV station.
One of the abductees said in the videotape that he worked for RTI, a North Carolina-based, independent non-profit organization that has a major local governance contract in Iraq.
Iran's Al-Alam television, monitored in Israel, showed footage of the two men, identifying them as Nabil George Yaakob Razuq and Ahmed Yassin Tikati. It said they had been kidnapped by the Ansar a-Din group.
"We are a religious faction," a masked man said in the tape.
"We have captured spies who belong to the Zionist enemy, and we demand the immediate release of all the prisoners who belong to the religious factions (in Iraq), especially the women. We will negotiate over these two captives."
The videotape also showed an Israeli identity card, an Israeli health service provider's card, an Israeli driver's license, a driving license issued by the U.S. state of Georgia and a student card from Augusta College in Georgia.
"I am Nabil George Yaakob, an Israeli working for RTI," a frightened-looking Razuq said in the videotape, giving his age as 30. Relatives in East Jerusalem told reporters he had attended university in Georgia.
Tikati, who also looked terrified, made a similar "confession," and said he was 33 years old.
Razuq's U.S. employer, Research Triangle International, confirmed he had been abducted but said they had no details about the circumstances surrounding his capture.
RTI Vice President Sally Johnson told Reuters Razuq was a Palestinian who came from Jerusalem but was hired by the company in Iraq, where he had previously worked for an aid organization before joining RTI.
"We are working with all the appropriate authorities to effect a successful outcome to this," Johnson told Reuters in Washington via a telephone interview.
She said RTI, which has about 200 expatriate and some 2,200 Iraqi workers, had accounted for all of its other employees. The company has a contract working in Iraq for the U.S. Agency of International Development.
"We are evaluating the security situation and taking all the appropriate steps to ensure our employees are safe," she said.
Israeli cabinet minister Gideon Ezra said both men were residents of East Jerusalem.
"They are not Israeli citizens," he told Israel's Channel Two television. "They are not couriers or agents of the (Israeli intelligence service) Mossad."
Palestinians from East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after its capture along with the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war, are issued with Israeli identity cards. They are eligible for Israeli citizenship, although few apply for it.
Asked by Channel Two if he had a message for the kidnappers, Razuq's uncle, Anton, said in Arabic: "We have been living under Israeli occupation since 1967. Like other Arabs in East Jerusalem, we have Israeli identity cards ... that doesn't mean we have any attachment to (Israel)."
Earlier, seven South Koreans, three Japanese and a Briton were reported to have been seized in Iraq by militants. The Koreans were later released.