Nepal Reels After Terrorists in Iraq Kill 12 Hostages
- Patrick Goodenough Pacific Rim Bureau Chief
- 2004 1 Sep
At least one of the 12 -- all civilian workers who were taken hostage last month -- was filmed being beheaded while the rest were shown being shot dead from behind.
The footage was posted on an Islamist website, which said the Nepalese were killed by a group called Jaish Ansar al-Sunna.
According to a translation of the message, also posted on the Internet, the group said the killings were carried out "at Allah's command" against the Nepalese who had come to Iraq to work for "the crusader forces."
In Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, protestors took to the streets, and hundreds attacked a mosque, chanting "we want revenge."
The Himalayan News Service said the 12 men had gone missing on August 19, just after entering Iraq from Jordan in two vehicles.
The gruesome murders have focused media attention away from a bloody Maoist rebellion in the kingdom which has cost some 10,000 lives over the past eight years.
After an emergency cabinet meeting, Nepal's government issued a statement calling the hostage killings a "barbarian act of terrorism."
The government, which is not a member of the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq - it says its forces have their hands full dealing with the Maoist insurgents - called on the international community to take "stringent action" against those responsible.
Nepalese media report that opposition parties have accused the government of not acting with sufficient urgency to end the hostage crisis.
Minister of state for foreign affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat sought to defend the government, saying it had no inkling that the captors would kill their hostages without even making public demands.
Dozens of foreigners have been seized by extremist groups in Iraq this year, and the kidnappers generally have made demands.
They have usually called on hostages' governments to withdraw from the coalition - or in cases where the governments are not involved in Iraq, to pull out their civilian nationals working in the country.
The whereabouts of three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian seized on July 21 remain unknown. Their captors had threatened to kill them if the transportation firm they were working for did not stop its operations from Iraq.
A group holding two French journalists has threatened to kill them if the French government does not rescind a recent law banning Islamic headscarves and other conspicuous religious symbols from public schools.
A deadline set by the group, called the Islamic Army of Iraq, passed Tuesday with Paris refusing to give in to the demands, and no word about the journalists' fate.
Last week an Italian journalist was killed by terrorists who demanded that Italy withdraw troops from Iraq. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has vowed not to back down under threat.
The kidnapping tactic has worked most obviously for the terrorist groups last July, when the Philippines withdraw its small military contingent from Iraq after kidnappers threatened to kill a civilian Filipino hostage.
According to terrorism researchers, Jaish Ansar al-Sunna, translated "army of the defenders of the faith," is a group comprising Iraqi Sunni and Kurdish extremists as well as non-Iraqi Arabs, which first declared its existence on the Internet in September 2003.
The group is believed to be an offshoot of or successor to Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist organization based in northern Iraq before last year's war.
Jaish Ansar al-Sunna has been linked to various terror attacks since the fall of Baghdad, including twin suicide bombings targeting two Kurdish political organizations in Irbil last February, in which more than 100 people were killed.
It also claimed responsibility for the killing of seven Spanish intelligence officers in a Nov. 2003 ambush.
Researchers say there is evidence the group has received help from Iran - especially in infiltrating fighters into Iraq, where the terrorist group has taken root in the area around Mosul.
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