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Italy confirms hostage executed

Reports: Two more Japanese abducted

The slain hostage was Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who was working in Iraq as a private security guard.

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(CNN) -- The Italian foreign minister has confirmed that one of a group of four Italian hostages in Iraq has been executed.

Minister Franco Frattini told Italian state television that the nation's ambassador to Qatar viewed a portion of the videotaped execution and confirmed that the slain hostage was Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who was working in Iraq as a private security guard.

The Al-Jazeera TV network said Wednesday it received a videotape allegedly showing the killing, in which the abductors threaten to kill the remaining hostages if their demands are not met.

Al-Jazeera said it did not broadcast the tape because it was too graphic.

Officials at the Arabic language network said the tape was sent to its Baghdad office.

The tape purportedly comes from a group of Iraqi hostage-takers calling themselves "The Mujahedeen Brigade."

In a statement delivered with the tape, the hostage-takers blamed Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for Quattrocchi's slaying, Al-Jazeera reported.

The network said the statement blamed Berlusconi for responding to the kidnapping of the four by saying that "pulling out of Iraq was totally out of the question," and went on to say that the hostage-takers will kill one hostage at a time until all their demands are met.

In a statement released Thursday morning in Italy, Berlusconi said: "They have broken a life, they have not cracked our values and our desire for the peace."

On Wednesday, Frattini said that at the request of the Italian government, a high-level delegation from Iran was sent to Baghdad "to try and make the necessary contacts" with the hostage-takers "to convince them to release the hostages."

In a video sent to Al-Jazeera Tuesday, the kidnappers made several demands, including:

  • "The Italian government should apologize in the name of its prime minister on Arabic news channels for all its actions against Islam and Muslims."
  • "The Italian government should give guarantees and provide a timetable of its troops' pullout of Iraq."
  • Italy has more than 2,700 troops in Iraq.

    The Tuesday video showed armed men surrounding the four Italians, who were seated and holding their passports. Each hostage said his name.

    Al-Jazeera earlier said the four were Italian intelligence officers, but a senior Italian government official told CNN that they are not government employees and were in Iraq working for private security firms.

    In other hostage developments, the Japanese government said it was investigating reports two more of its citizens have been kidnapped in Iraq.

    "The reports are unconfirmed, but it appears two more people have been kidnapped," Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Thursday.(Reports: More Japanese abducted)

    Three other Japanese civilians were kidnapped last week and have been threatened with death if the country remains in Iraq.

    Meanwhile, French TV network Capa has confirmed that one of its reporters held hostage has been freed.

    The reporter is Alexandre Jourdanov, 45, a French national. He called the station and said he is in good health, the network said.

    Countries throughout the world are becoming increasingly alarmed at the recent surge in kidnappings and disappearances of their nationals in Iraq.

    Four mutilated, unidentified bodies were found west of Baghdad earlier this week and it is feared that the four were among seven employees of U.S. construction firm Kellogg, Brown and Root -- a Halliburton subsidiary -- who went missing.

    The French Foreign Ministry has been advising its citizens in Iraq -- including journalists -- to leave the country because of the escalating conflict there.

    And Russia has announced the evacuation of some of the 816 contractors working for Russian companies in Iraq, according to the Ministry for Emergency Situations. It will send the first of seven planes to Iraq Thursday to move them out.

    The announcement comes after eight employees of a Russian electric power consortium were kidnapped in Baghdad Monday and released, unharmed, the next morning. (Full story)

    The ministry said evacuation was not mandatory, and companies would decide whether to ask employees to leave Iraq, the ministry said.

    More than 500 Russian citizens and over 250 residents from former Soviet states are working as contractors in Iraq, many of them repairing power stations.

    Meanwhile, coalition partner, the Philippines, said it was considering removing its contingent of 60 troops.

    Ricardo L. Saludo, Philippines presidential spokesman, said in a statement "the decision on whether or not to withdraw our peacekeeping forces will depend on the security situation in Iraq in the days to come."

    He said while the the government is dedicated to helping Iraq rebuild, "the safety of our peacekeeping forces in Iraq is still our utmost concern."

    "The government will take all precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our contingent."

    -- CNN's Ryan Chilcote, Octavia Nasr, Atika Shubert and Hayat Mongodin contributed to this report

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