7 Chinese kidnapped in Iraq; China urges rescue
Chinese leaders are highly concerned with the case of Chinese nationals kidnapped in Iraq, and have instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chinese Embassy in Baghdad to begin rescue work with utmost efforts for an early release of the seven hostages, the Foreign Ministry said in Beijing Monday.
The seven Chinese nationals were kidnapped by armed men in Fallujah, west of Baghdad on Sunday after they entered Iraq via Jordan. The seven people, all male, were from China's eastern Fujian Province, Chinese diplomats in Baghdad said.
Sun Bigan, head of the team responsible for the re-establishment of the Chinese Embassy in Baghdad, called an emergent meeting and formed a special task force for rescue work.
The Chinese diplomats are also contacting with officials of the interim Iraqi governing body and people of other walks of life to help for the rescue of the hostages.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry Monday advises Chinese nationals not to go to Iraq due to the current situation there. The ministry urged all Chinese nationals in Iraq to keep high vigilance, pay more attention to self-protection and keep contact with the team responsible for the re-establishment of Chinese Embassy in Iraq.
Seven Chinese citizens became the latest foreigners to be kidnapped in Iraq when they were abducted by an armed group, state media quoted a Chinese diplomat in Baghdad as saying.
The seven entered Iraq from Jordan early Sunday and were most probably abducted in the flashpoint city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Xinhua news agency quoted the diplomat as saying.
The seven men were from eastern Fujian province, according to a name list provided by the diplomat. The oldest was 49, the youngest 18, it added.
Xinhua said that Al Arabiya television's correspondent in Fallujah had interviewed some foreigners released by kidnappers on Sunday who said they had met seven people with Chinese passports being held in a secret location.
The captives were reportedly in good health and not handcuffed, but it remained unclear what the kidnappers would do with them.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry Monday advises Chinese nationals not to go to Iraq due to the current situation there. The ministry confirmed that seven Chinese citizens from China's Fujian Province were kidnapped by unidentified armed men in Fallujah, west of Baghdad on Sunday.
The ministry urged all Chinese nationals in Iraq to keep high vigilance, pay more attention to self-protection and keep contact with the team responsible for the re-establishment of Chinese Embassy in Iraq.
The reported kidnappings came a day before US Vice President Dick Cheney was due to arrive in Beijing Tuesday straight from a visit to Tokyo overshadowed by the kidnapping of three Japanese civilians in Iraq.
The issue of Iraq had before the reported kidnappings been thought unlikely to feature highly on the agenda during Cheney's visit.
China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, resolutely opposed the invasion of Iraq and has refused to send troops to help police the US-led occupation.
Armed groups are now believed to be holding dozens of foreigners captive in Iraq as bargaining chips.
Those who abducted the three Japanese civilians have reportedly said they will burn them alive unless Tokyo starts pulling its troops out of the country.
Japan has around 500 troops deployed in the southern city of Samawa engaged in humanitarian and reconstruction projects.
The captors, according to a self-described mediator, would kill all three within hours unless Japan pulled out its troops, said Mezher al-Delaimi, identified as head of the League of the Defense of Iraqis.
The dangers to foreign civilians were further underscored Sunday when Germany said that two of its missing nationals were probably dead.
A presumed American citizen, a Canadian aid worker and a group of 30 foreigners have been reportedly kidnapped in Iraq in recent days.
Canada has confirmed that it has one missing aid worker, with officials in Ottawa saying that negotiations to free the Canadian aid worker were at a "delicate stage".
In London, the Foreign Office confirmed Sunday that Briton Gary Teeley, who was kidnapped in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, had been released and was safe and well.
Teeley, 37, was described as a civilian consultant for a dye works.
Al-Jazeera television in Doha said Sunday that an armed group in Iraq had released several Asian truck drivers who had worked with US-led coalition forces and been abducted.
The television, airing footage of the men reported to be drivers, quoted the group as saying there were eight drivers, but gave a breakdown of nine, including three Pakistanis, two Turks, one Nepalese, one Indian, one Iranian and one Filipino.
Insurgents, calling themselves the "Mujahedeen of Iraq to US forces" meanwhile threatened to kill a presumed American citizen, identified as Thomas Hamill, unless the siege of Fallujah by US Marines was lifted.
The threat echoed those made Saturday by the group that claimed it was holding 30 foreign hostages from Japan, Bulgaria, the United States, Israel, Spain and South Korea.