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Hostage-takers in Iraq extend deadline
Updated: 2004-07-26 16:58

An Arab television station aired video footage Monday of kidnappers extending a deadline for their demands to be met for the release of seven foreign drivers abducted in Iraq.

The brief segment of videotape on Al-Arabiya, showing kidnappers reading their demands, did not say how long the deadline had been extended.

A group calling itself "The Holders of the Black Banners" announced last week it had abducted three Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian, all of them truck drivers for a Kuwaiti company.

On Wednesday, the group demanded the employer, Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Co., stop doing business in Iraq and that the countries the drivers' came from withdraw their citizens. Originally, the group gave a Saturday night deadline, but the abductors on Friday extended it 48 hours.

At that time, it also added the demand that the Kuwaiti company pay compensation for those killed by U.S. forces in the city of Fallujah and demanding the release of all Iraqi detainees in Kuwaiti and U.S. prisons.

The latest deadline extension did not include a new time.

The tape referred to negotiation efforts by Sheik Hisham al-Dulayni, head of an organization for Iraqi tribal leaders.

"In response to the call by Sheik al-Dulayni, who is leading negotiations, we have approved the following: First, extension of the period to continue negotiations. Second, emphasizing to the Kuwaiti company to withdraw. Third, warning the Indian government not to attack Islamic religious leaders."

The third item appeared to again expand the aims of the kidnappers, who previously had not publicly made known any such warning to the Indian government.

Officials for the Kuwaiti transport company have expressed confidence in recent days that the seven drivers ultimately would be freed.

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