US, British hostages face beheading in Iraq
Militants led by Washington's top foe in Iraq said they would kill an American and a Briton on Tuesday unless their demands were met, a day after they released footage showing them severing the head of another U.S. hostage.
Then one of the men grabs him and saws off his head with a knife.
Armstrong was seized in Baghdad on Thursday along with fellow American Jack Hensley and Briton Kenneth Bigley.
President Bush, in comments made before the release of the video on an Islamist Web site on Monday, said the United States would not negotiate and would stay on the offensive.
"They will behead people in order to shake our will. These people are ideologues of hatred," Bush told a campaign rally.
"You cannot negotiate with these people," he said. "We will stay on the offensive against them."
The group said in the video of Armstrong's killing it would behead the other two hostages within 24 hours unless female inmates were released from the Abu Ghraib and Umm Qasr jails.
The U.S. military says it does not hold any female prisoners in either of those two jails, and that only two women are in U.S. detention in Iraq. The two, dubbed "Mrs Anthrax" and "Dr Germ" by U.S. forces, are accused of working on Saddam Hussein's weapons programs and held at a secret high-security camp.
Washington says Zarqawi, a Jordanian, is its number one enemy in Iraq. His group has claimed responsibility for most of the bloodiest suicide attacks in Iraq since Saddam was overthrown. Zarqawi's group also beheaded U.S. telecoms engineer Nicholas Berg in May and South Korean driver Kim Sun-il in June.
The United States has offered $25 million for information leading to the death or capture of Zarqawi, and has launched a series of air strikes on the rebel-held city of Falluja, west of Baghdad, targeting suspected hideouts used by his followers.
PLEAS BY FAMILIES
Hensley's wife Patty, in an interview with CNN, pleaded for his release for the sake of their 13-year-old daughter.
Bigley's family appealed to British Prime Minister Tony Blair for help.
His brother Philip said in a statement broadcast on Sky News television: "If nothing is done then the two remaining hostages will die by the most horrific means."
"It is the prime minister who has the power to save Ken's life. Prime minister, we as a family are begging you, please help us," he said, echoing a similar plea by Bigley's son, Craig.
"I ask Tony Blair personally to consider the amount of bloodshed already suffered," Craig said in a statement broadcast on the BBC. "Only you can save him now. You have children and you will understand how I feel at this time."
A U.S. official in Washington said Armstrong's body had been recovered and identified.
"Oh, you Christian dog Bush, stop your arrogance ... The mujahideen will give America a taste of the degradation you have inflicted on the Iraqi people," the statement said.
More than a dozen hostages are being held in Iraq and threatened with death unless their captors' demands are met.
Two French journalists were seized a month ago, and two female Italian aid workers were kidnapped in broad daylight in central Baghdad earlier this month.
A statement purportedly from the group holding the Frenchmen said at the weekend they were no longer captives but had agreed to stay with the group for some time to cover its activities.
French President Jacques Chirac issued a fresh plea on Monday for their release. He said his reaction to the killing of Armstrong was one of "horror and incomprehension."
"Of course I think of the two French hostages and their Syrian companion -- two men who were only doing their job, and doing no harm to anyone," he said at the United Nations.
"I appeal solemnly again to justice and humanity, so that our two journalists and their companion be returned to freedom."
There has been no word on the fate of the Italians. An Internet statement purportedly from Zarqawi's group said on Monday that it was not holding them.
Another guerrilla group has threatened to kill 10 workers from a U.S.-Turkish firm unless their company stopped doing business in Iraq within three days. Most of the workers seized are believed to be Turkish.