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Kidnappers threaten to kill Christian hostages
Updated: 2005-12-03 09:14

The kidnappers of four Christian peace activists threatened to kill the hostages unless all prisoners in U.S. and Iraqi detention centers are released, according to a videotape broadcast Friday by Al-Jazeera television.

Women hold candles Friday, Dec. 2, 2005 in Glonn, southern Germany, in commemoration of kidnapped archeologist Susanne Osthoff as they stand next to a picture of the woman, who has disappeared a week ago in northern Iraq. The fate of Osthoff is still unknown. [AP]

The tape showed what the broadcaster said were two Canadian hostages. An American and a Briton are also being held. In a statement delivered with the tape, the kidnappers gave the two governments until Dec. 8 to meet their demands, according to Al-Jazeera.

The Canadians were shown eating from plates of what appeared to be Arabic sweets. In a second clip, the British and American hostages were shown to talking to the camera, but no audio was transmitted. All four men appeared frightened.

The hostages called on the U.S. and British governments to withdraw from Iraq, Al-Jazeera reported, quoting the statement from the kidnappers, who earlier identified themselves as the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, a previously unknown group.

The corner of the video showed two crossed black swords and the name of the insurgent group written in red Arabic script the same emblem shown in an earlier video of the hostages.

The group has claimed that the kidnapped men, from the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams, were spies working under the cover of peace activists. The group denied spying.

Greg Rollins, a Canadian member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, said news of the death threat was disturbing.

"It's a bit of a shock," said Rollins, who had not yet seen the new video. He said he hoped the kidnappers would respond to messages of support from Muslims and other Arabs for the group, which opposes the war in Iraq.

"Hopefully they will continue to read those things and get a positive idea of what we do here and who my teammates are."

The activists were seized Nov. 26 near Baghdad University. A car blocked their car, gunmen got out, threw the driver and translator out and drove away with the four Westerners, security officials said Thursday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
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