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Egyptian hostage in Iraq faces deadline

Prime minister vows to annihilate insurgents


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Family members of Filipino hostage Angelo de la Cruz watches as he appears in a video aired by Al-Jazeera.
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Hassoun arrived at a Marine base in Quantico, Virginia.

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The Philippines moves to reduce its troops in Iraq.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The abductors of an Egyptian hostage in Iraq have given his Saudi employer 48 hours to prove the company has left Iraq, the Arabic-language news network Al-Jazeera reported Thursday.

The hostage-takers sent a written statement to the network threatening to kill Muhammad al-Gharabawi if the company -- Faisal al-Nahait Transport Company -- does not meet the deadline.

It was the second death threat against al-Gharabawi.

On July 13, the purported Iraqi group said it would behead al-Gharabawi, whom it had seized a week earlier, unless the Saudi company pulled out of Iraq within 72 hours.

"We will withdraw our operation there to save the life of the hostage, our driver," owner Faisal al-Nahait told Al-Jazeera Wednesday. He said the driver has worked for the company for eight years.

Al-Gharabawi, in his 50s, was abducted while delivering petroleum products to U.S. forces in Iraq by a group claiming to be the "legitimate Iraqi resistance," Al-Jazeera reported last week.

Thursday's statement from the abductors also declared anyone who collaborates with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq "won't be treated kindly, for they are seen as traitors working with the infidel occupiers."

Meanwhile, a beheaded body pulled Thursday from the Tigris River may be one of two Bulgarian truck drivers held hostage by militants, police in Mosul said.

A U.S. military spokesman said the body was turned over to soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division and DNA tests were being conducted to determine the identity of the victim.

The body -- decapitated and dressed in an orange jumpsuit -- had been retrieved from the Tigris River northwest of Bayji, about 30 miles north of Tikrit, the military spokesman said.

Captives have appeared wearing orange jumpsuits in videotapes that militants released to the media.

Earlier this week, Al-Jazeera reported that it had received a videotape showing one of the two truckers had been beheaded.

In Sofia, Bulgaria, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Bulgarian officials have not determined the fate of the hostages.

Troops for a hostage

In another ongoing hostage drama, Al-Jazeera showed video of Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz and reported that he'll be returning home.

His voice was not heard, but an anchor read his purported message.

The news reader said de la Cruz sent a message to the Philippines president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, thanking her for her decision to withdraw troops and sticking to that decision.

De la Cruz "sent a message to his wife and family members telling them that he is not wearing the orange clothes anymore, and he appeared in regular clothes on the tape, and he told his family members 'wait for me, I am coming back to you,' " according to an English-translation of the Al-Jazeera report. Full story

Later, the network anchor read a statement from the militants holding the hostage saying they will free him when "the last Filipino leaves Iraq on a date that doesn't go beyond the end of this month."

The Philippines instituted a news blackout Thursday regarding de la Cruz, after the country agreed to reduce the number of troops in Iraq to satisfy the demands of his abductors. There has been no immediate reaction to the Al-Jazeera report.

Prime minister vows to annihilate insurgents

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi announced a new intelligence service will be called the General Security Directorate and will "annihilate those terrorist groups, God willing."

He made the announcement not long after 17 people died in a series of attacks over 24 hours.

The deadliest attack took place Thursday in the western Iraqi town of Hadithah, when a car bomb exploded near the main police station, damaging that structure and nearby buildings. Ten Iraqis, including four police officers, were killed and at least 30 other people were wounded, Iraqi Health and Interior Ministry officials said.

Iraqi police in Karbala were able to thwart a car bomb attack in that city, and two suspected attackers were killed.

A mortar attack near the northern Iraqi town of Kirkuk missed its intended target, a police station, and hit a nearby house late Wednesday, killing five members of a Kurdish-Iraqi family and wounding two others, a police spokesman said.

Also near Kirkuk, an oil pipeline running between Kirkuk oil fields and a Beiji refinery was heavily damaged early Thursday after it was attacked by insurgents.

Despite these incidents, Allawi said the security situation has been improving, attributing strides in security to "the combined efforts" of ministries, other government institutions and citizens.

The government has approved emergency laws giving the interim Iraqi government the power to declare martial law, set curfews and detain suspected insurgents

Allawi said capital punishment is still an option because stiff sanctions might be needed that would fairly address the "scale of the crimes" committed by insurgents.

In a diplomatic development related to security, Allawi said he asked six countries -- Egypt, Morocco, Oman, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- to supply troops.

Also, he said he plans to visit countries in the Middle East, Asia and Europe to solidify relations overseas. Allawi said he hopes the GSD will be able to gain intelligence to thwart the kind of attacks that happened Thursday.

Other developments

  • U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, who said he was abducted from his base in Iraq in June and who resurfaced in Lebanon last week, arrived Thursday at the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia. The 24-year-old translator is expected to continue to undergo a repatriation process and answer questions about his disappearance in Iraq.
  • CNNArabic.com editor Caroline Faraj and CNN's Jane Arraf, Jamie McIntyre and Maria Ressa contributed to this report.


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