BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — In a dramatic video released
yesterday, insurgents revealed they had kidnapped three Japanese
and threatened to burn them alive in three days unless Japan agrees
to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, the
kidnappers shouted “Allahu akbar” — God is great
— in the video and held knives to the throats of the
Japanese, who screamed and whimpered in terror. Japan’s
government said it has no plans to pull troops out of Iraq in
response to the threat, which came amid a series of other
kidnappings targeting civilians.

In addition, fighting continued in Fallujah where insurgents
fought U.S. troops from two mosques. Some of the worst violence
since the U.S. invaded Iraq almost 13 months ago, has occurred in
this southern city in the past week.

Two Arab residents of east Jerusalem _ one an Israeli citizen
working for a U.S. aid group — and seven South Korean
Christian missionaries were detained Thursday, though the Koreans
were released.

The events suggested a new tactic by insurgents to pressure the
governments of Washington’s allies in Iraq, and posed dire
implications for U.N. workers, journalists, religious groups,
security personnel and other civilians doing business here.

Foreigners have been detained by gunmen for brief periods in the
past — usually in robberies — and Iraqi citizens have
been kidnapped and held for ransom by criminals. But this was the
first time foreigners have been snatched for political reasons, and
the first such dramatic video ultimatum.

The Arabic TV station Al-Jazeera, broadcasting to Iraq and the
rest of the Arab world, aired portions of the video of the Japanese
hostages released by a previously unknown group calling itself the
“Mujahedeen Squadrons.” It showed two men and one woman
surrounded by gunmen wearing black, and close-ups of the
captives’ passports.

Al-Jazeera editors said the three were taken hostage in southern
Iraq, where black-clad Shiite militiamen have been engaged in an
uprising this week. The exact date of their capture was not
known.

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