Captors of Chinese hostages air new demand for release
The Iraqi captors of eight Chinese men said on Friday they would treat them "mercifully" if China banned nationals from entering Iraq.
"We ask your government to issue a statement forbidding Chinese citizens from entering Iraq and this will be considered as a positive gesture and will make us look mercifully on the detainees,'' the insurgents said in a video obtained by the news agency Reuters.
The Chinese, looking tired and frightened, were lined up in front of a mound of earth and rocks. Each held a Chinese passport and one of them squatted with his head bowed.
Friday's video was the second issued by the captors since the men were taken hostage, but it set no deadline for the Chinese Government.
The captors released the fi rst footage on Tuesday to Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV. They claimed the eight were helping the US military build facilities in Iraq and demanded Beijing "clarify" its position on Iraq within 48 hours or the hostages would be killed.
Late on Friday night, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said the Chinese Government had, on many occasions, warned its nationals about going to Iraq. Appealing for the men's safe return as soon as possible, he said: "I want to stress that the Chinese Government has previously issued warnings for many times, urging its nationals not to travel to Iraq."
The eight Chinese went to Iraq on their own about a year ago and were on their way out of the country when they were taken. The Foreign Ministry has also urged Chinese diplomats to explore all measures to seek the release of the hostages.
Li Huaxin, vice-director of Department of West Asian and North African Affairs at China's Foreign Ministry, appealed for the release of the men during an appearance on Al-Jazeera television on Friday.
The China Islamic Association has also joined the appeal for their safe return. Leaders of Fujian Province visited the families of the hostages on Friday and conveyed the concerns of the State's top leaders.
The families continue to plead for the safe return of their loved ones.
All of the men are from impoverished villages in East China's sea islands. They were seeking work in Iraq.
Liu Weiqiao, wife of hostage Chen Qin'ai, told reporters she has been waiting in front of the TV for three days and hopes to get news from her husband.
Parents of another hostage, Lin Xiong, have eaten little food since the 48-hour deadline passed.
Iraq's Ambassador to China Mohammad Ismail was quoted by the Beijing Youth Daily as saying the interim government was exploring all avenues to win the men's release.