Philippines to begin Iraq withdrawal

The Philippines government says the commander of the country's military force in Iraq will leave the country on Friday, along with 10 other members.

Foreign Secretary Delia Albert said the remainder of the 51-strong contingent would be withdrawn "shortly".

The move is part of efforts to secure the release of a Filipino hostage.

Angelo de la Cruz is being held in Iraq by militants who have threatened to behead him if Philippine troops do not leave by the end of this month.

On Thursday, the hostage was shown in a videotape broadcast on Arabic television station al-Jazeera, in an apparent attempt to show that he was alive.

His voice was not heard and there was no proof of the date of the video.

The previously unknown group holding him, the Iraqi Islamic Army-Khaled bin al-Waleed Corps, had demanded the Philippines withdraw its peacekeeping troops by 20 July.

It later extended the deadline to the end of the month.

The Philippines' decision to pull out of Iraq, announced earlier this week, has disappointed the country's foreign allies, particularly the United States and Australia.

The White House said the Philippines was sending "the wrong signal to terrorists".

"There is no separate peace with terrorists," press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Body discovered

Meanwhile, a headless body in an orange jumpsuit has been found in the Tigris River in Baghdad, the US military has said.

A military spokeswoman said Iraqi police had discovered the body and handed it over to the Americans.

Unconfirmed reports say it might be that of a Bulgarian driver who was killed by militants earlier this week.

A militant group affiliated with Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has threatened to kill a second Bulgarian hostage.

They are demanding the US release Iraqi detainees.

Videotapes of foreign hostages in Iraq have often shown them wearing orange jumpsuits of the kind worn by detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Al-Jazeera has also received a video recording of the Bulgarian hostage's death, but it decided not to broadcast the graphic sections of the tape.

The video showed the Bulgarians wearing orange jumpsuits, kneeling in front of three masked men dressed in black.

Reports suggest the Bulgarian man killed was Georgi Lazov, 30, who was seized in northern Iraq along with his colleague, Ivaylo Kepov, 32.

The two men had been delivering cars from Bulgaria to the Iraqi city of Mosul.

The execution was allegedly carried out by members of the al-Tahid and Jihad Group, headed by a suspected al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The group has also claimed responsibility for the deaths of two other hostages - American Nick Berg and South Korean Kim Sun-il.

16/07/2004

Bron : BBC News

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