WORLD


ONE ITALIAN HOSTAGE KILLED IN IRAQ

One of the four Italians taken hostage in Iraq has been killed, Qatar's Al-Jazeera television said on Thursday.

The television has a videotape showing militants of the earlier-unknown group al-Qatiba al-Khadra (Green Battalion) threatening to kill one after another the captured Italians until the demands are met.

Reports about the seizure of four Italian citizens came on Tuesday. The kidnappers demanded Italy's military contingent be withdrawn from Iraq and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi apologize for his attacks against the Islamic civilization and pledge to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq.

The group also demanded release of all the supporters of radical religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr and Mehdi Army militants arrested in Iraq recently.

All the Italian hostages were civilians working at a private U.S. guard firm. They are former servicemen or policemen. The militants accuse them of spying.

Al-Jazeera said it would not show the videotape of the execution because it was too cruel.

Italian troops stationed in the Iraqi city of Nassiriya number 2,700 servicemen.

About a week ago, fierce clashes broke out in the city between coalition forces and Mehdi Army militants subordinate to radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini confirmed one of the hostages was killed.

Premier Berlusconi stated the murder of an Italian hostage in Iraq would not influence Italy's efforts to establish peace in the country.

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