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Militants say 2 Pakistani captives killed

| Thursday, July 29, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A militant group holding two Pakistani contractors hostage said Wednesday it had killed the men but freed their Iraqi driver, the Al-Jazeera television station Al-Jazeera reported.

The group, calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq, had announced in a video Monday that it kidnapped two Pakistanis working for U.S. forces and sentenced them to death because their country was discussing sending troops to Iraq.

In a new videotape sent to Al-Jazeera yesterday, the men said they had carried out their threat, the station reported. The newsreader said the video showed the corpses of the two men; however, the station declined to show the footage.

The kidnapped men were identified by Pakistan as engineer Raja Azad, 49, and driver Sajad Naeem, 29, both of whom worked for the Kuwait-based al-Tamimi group in Baghdad. The militants also warned the company to stop doing business in Iraq or they would kill more of its employees.

"This is a brutal murder slaying. It has nothing to do with politics," Masood Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, told CNN. "They have taken innocent lives. Here in Pakistan, everybody will be mourning tomorrow."

The group said it had released the Iraqi driver, Omar Khaled Selman, after it was clear he had been duped by the Pakistanis. The militants released a video showing Selman describing his ordeal.

"After interrogation, they charged us all with the death penalty, and then they postponed mine and carried out the death penalty for the two Pakistanis because it was clear that they were spies," he said.

"After further interrogation with me, they found out that I was only a driver and they released me," he said on the video broadcast on Al-Jazeera.

Militants have kidnapped more than 70 foreigners here in recent months in an effort to push countries out of the coalition, deter others from joining and disrupt reconstruction efforts.

The three men disappeared Friday after a convoy of trucks they were traveling in was attacked.

Pakistan's president and prime minister had appealed for the hostages' release, saying they were just poor men trying to support their families. The men's families also pleaded for their release in the name of Islam.

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