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Report: Iraqi Official’s In-Law Abducted

August 25, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Militants said Wednesday they had kidnapped the brother-in-law of Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan and demanded he end all military operations in the holy city of Najaf, according to a video, Al-Jazeera television reported.

The authenticity of the video could not immediately be verified.

Separately, two Turkish companies said they were withdrawing their workers from Iraq after militants threatened to behead two kidnapped employees.

The militants, calling themselves the ``Divine Wrath Brigades,″ said they kidnapped Maj. Gen. Salah Hassan Lami, Shaalan’s brother-in-law and the director of military affairs at the Defense Ministry, according to Al-Jazeera. A second man was also kidnapped, though it was unclear if he was related to Lami or Shaalan.

The two men are shown in the video sitting before two black-clad men, one of whom was holding a gun.

The militants also demanded the release of Sheik Ali Smeisim, a top aide to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who was arrested in Najaf earlier Wednesday.

Separately, Turkish media reported Wednesday that militants in Iraq threatened to kill two Turkish hostages if their companies did not withdraw from the country within three days.

Hours later, the two Turkish companies _ Usluel and SA-RA _ began withdrawing their staff from Iraq, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Private NTV and CNN-Turk televisions broadcast a video Wednesday from a Turkish news agency showing Abdullah Ozdemir and Ali Daskin, who were reportedly kidnapped from a construction site in Iraq. It was not clear when they were abducted.

In the video, the two Turks were seen squatting in front of two armed insurgents and holding up their Turkish passports.

An Arabic voice demanded that their company withdraw from Iraq within 72 hours and warned that otherwise the hostages would be executed, Turkish media reported. The company was not named.

It was not clear when the video was filmed, and there was also no way to verify its authenticity.

A similar video was broadcast last week with images of another Turkish hostage, Aytullah Gezmen and a similar threat. Gezmen’s company, Bilintur, announced that it was withdrawing its employees from Iraq in order to win his release, but there has been no word on Gezmen since then.

Al-Qaida linked militants loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi recently shot dead another Turkish hostage, Murat Yuce, who worked for Bilintur and was kidnapped at the same time as Gezmen.

At least four other Turks were reported missing in Iraq as of Wednesday, the semiofficial Anatolia news agency said.

Several Turkish workers and truck drivers have been kidnapped and released this year.

Update hourly