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Arab aid workers among hostages



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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Iranian TV Thursday showed footage of two Arab hostages held in Iraq.

Initially both men were believed to be from Jerusalem, but one was later identified as Canadian.

A masked man on the video who said he represented the abductors -- a group called Ansar al-Din -- announced it had detained "prisoners from the occupation forces."

"We have these two Zionist collaborators. We are demanding the release of our sheikhs, Sunnis or Shiites, prisoners, especially the women prisoners. We are willing to negotiate over the fate of the two," the masked man said on the video.

Israeli TV aired the footage, and the country's newspapers reported the incident.

"We all know they are not Mossad agents or sent by the Mossad in any way," said Gideon Ezra, who is an Israeli Cabinet minister with the title "minister without portfolio."

The Israeli government and Foreign Ministry officials did not offer any more comment.

The two hostages were identified as Nabil George Razzouk, 30, of Arab East Jerusalem and Fadi Fadel, 33, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen.

Fadel, an aid worker for the International Rescue Committee in Najaf, had earlier been identified as a resident of Arab East Jerusalem.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Sameer Ahmed said his government was working to locate Fadel, who was snatched while working in the field around midnight Wednesday.

"We hope that his rescue will soon be secure," Ahmed said.

The IRC said Fadel manages a UNICEF-funded program that provides humanitarian assistance for vulnerable children and youth in southern Iraq.

Razzouk's uncle, Samir, told Israeli TV his nephew had been in Iraq for two months working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, a position he got "through the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv."

On Iranian TV, Razzouk himself said he works for RTI, a North Carolina-based company given a USAID contract to "provide local governance support in postwar Iraq."

A senior State Department official in Washington confirmed that Razzouk works for a USAID contractor.

Israeli TV reported that Nabil Razzouk studied at Augusta College in the U.S. state of Georgia and graduated from there in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in business marketing.

He has a Georgia driver's license and his name was registered at addresses in Augusta, in eastern Georgia, and Marietta and Kennesaw in northern Georgia during the past decade.

The U.S. driver's license was among identifying documents aired on Iranian television along with footage of the two men.

Haaretz, the Israeli daily, said the Iranian report also showed "two identity cards, a Maccabi HMO card, an Israeli driver's license and a supermarket chain discount card." The paper reported that both men are Christians.

Another of Razzouk's uncles, Anton Razzouk, appeared on Israeli TV and appealed to the kidnappers to let the two go.

"We are Palestinians who live under the occupation of Israel since 1967. Like every Arab in Jerusalem, we have Israeli IDs. That does not mean we are affiliated with Israel or the embassy's organizations we work for," the elder Razzouk said.

He said Nabil Razzouk "has no relation to politics or spying of any sort. We are asking this group to release him without conditions because his cause was noble, just like his name, which actually means noble."

RTI International, based in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, said on its Web site that USAID awarded RTI a contract "to provide local governance support in postwar Iraq, which will foster social and political stability by helping meet citizens' basic needs within their communities."

CNN's Yoav Appel contributed to this report


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