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Deadline set for U.S. hostage passes

No word on expected release of 3 Japanese held separately

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A 10 p.m. ET deadline set by the armed militants in Iraq, who have taken hostage a man who appears to be American, has passed with no word on whether he has been released.

The militants said Saturday that their captive may face harsh treatment if U.S. forces have not left Fallujah by 10 p.m. ET -- 12 hours after the demand was made.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Kyodo news agency reported three Japanese hostages would be freed at 0300 GMT (11 p.m. ET). The deadline passed late Saturday with no word on whether the hostages were let go.

The kidnappers have threatened to burn the Japanese hostages alive Sunday unless Japan pulls its troops out of Iraq. (Full story)

Al-Jazeera also played a video of the apparent American hostage sitting in front of an Iraqi flag.

The network told CNN that the hostage-takers could deal with the man harshly if U.S. forces didn't leave Fallujah within hours.

A man with an Iraqi Bedouin accent said in the report "as you can see we've been treating the American hostage well according to Islam."

"Our demands are clear," his statement said. "What we want is the Americans to leave our spiritual city immediately." He also called the town the "city of mosques," a reference to Fallujah.

The statement said if the U.S. forces did not leave within the 12 hours after 6 p.m. (10 a.m. ET), the hostage will be dealt with "in a different way."

The American hostage was first shown on video by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The network showed a car stopping on a highway and masked, armed men getting out and asking journalists to look at a hostage, who was sitting in the back seat next to a gunman.

A journalist asked the man what happened, and the man, white and middle-aged, replied in a slight Southern U.S. accent that "they attacked our convoy. That's all I'm going to say."

He gave his name. Then the men got into the car and drove off.

The network said the video was shot on the road between Baghdad and Fallujah, where U.S. Marines have been fighting pitched battles with insurgents for control of the town.

It is unclear if the man on the video was referring to an incident Friday when a fuel convoy was attacked near Baghdad International Airport.

The Pentagon said two U.S. soldiers and four civilian contractors -- some of them American -- are unaccounted for after the fuel convoy was attacked. The four worked for the same company.

U.S. officials in Baghdad are working with the employer of the civilians to try to trace the normal routines, duties and contacts of the civilians in an attempt to piece together what could have happened to them, a State Department official said.

The official said "we know that they are missing, but we don't know more than that."

One U.S. soldier and an Iraqi driver were killed in the incident, and 12 people were wounded.

Coalition commanders sent reinforcements to the besieged Sunni Triangle city of Fallujah on Saturday, as they worked to arrange a cease-fire with insurgents there, a top U.S. military spokesman said.(Full story)

Also Saturday, the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr issued demands to the coalition through his deputy. Among other demands, Al-Sadr is asking for the release of all of his followers who have been arrested and for a guaranteed date for withdrawal of occupation forces from Iraq. (Full story)

Al-Jazeera: Japanese hostages to be freed

The three Japanese civilians who were kidnapped in Iraq this week will be released within 24 hours, Al-Jazeera reported Saturday.

A group calling itself the Mujahedeen Squadrons had threatened to kill the hostages if Japan did not withdraw its troops from Iraq by Sunday. So far, Japan has refused to give in to the terrorists' demands.

The Qatar-based network said the decision to release the three Japanese -- a journalist, a nongovernmental organization worker and an aid worker -- was made in response to a call from the Islamic Institute, a Sunni organization in Iraq.

The network did not say how it received that information.

A Japanese official arrived in Jordan on Saturday to try to learn more about the kidnappings and negotiate the hostages' release.

A videotape released Thursday showing them being held at gunpoint and threatened with knives. (Full story)

Protesters packed the streets of Tokyo for a second day on Saturday demanding the government meet the kidnappers' demands.

Two foreign Arab aid workers also remain in captivity. Seven South Korean missionaries were released unharmed Thursday, hours after they were taken.

Meanwhile, the German Foreign Ministry confirmed Saturday that two security personnel assigned to its embassy in Baghdad were missing.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said he could not rule out that the two were dead.

German media have reported that the men -- members of the elite GSG 9 counterterrorism force --were part of a convoy driving from Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad.

The rest of the convoy reportedly arrived safely at the embassy, a small office where a handful of diplomats are working. (Full story)

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