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CARE shuts down Iraq operations


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Margaret Hassan is seen in a video aired Wednesday on the Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera.
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(CNN) -- The relief agency CARE International has shut down all operations in Iraq and urged insurgents to release its director in Bagdhad, Margaret Hassan, who was kidnapped more than a week ago.

A statement was released pleading with captors to release Hassan, who holds dual Iraqi-British citizenship.

The aid director is one of numerous hostages being held by Iraqi militant groups in Iraq. She was kidnapped on October 19 by a group that did not identify itself, and put out two videotaped statements pleading for her life and calling for the withdrawal of British troops.

Two more hostages were seized on Thursday by another group, the Islamic Army in Iraq, which said it kidnapped truck drivers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh on their way into a U.S. military base.

The group displayed the drivers' ID cards in a statement aired Thursday night on the Arabic-language news network Al-Jazeera, and identified them as employees of a Kuwaiti company. It said it would present a case against the drivers to an Islamic court, Al-Jazeera reported.

The Islamic Army has claimed responsibility for numerous killings and kidnappings in Iraq. It claimed responsibility for Wednesday's slaying of an Iraqi diplomat in Baghdad, and it claimed to have kidnapped and killed an Italian journalist in August.

The group also has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two French journalists the same month. They are still believed to be hostages.

Another militant group, which called itself the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq al-Salafiya Brigades, claimed responsibility Thursday for the kidnapping of a Polish woman with dual Polish-Iraqi citizenship. It is demanding the withdrawal of Poland's troops from Iraq.

The Base of Jihad, the militant group believed to be led by wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed Tuesday that it was holding a Japanese man seized in Iraq.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said that his nation's troops would remain in Iraq despite threats from insurgents they would kill the hostage.

Koizumi told Cabinet ministers on Wednesday that Japan's 550-contingent force would remain in Iraq, where it has been participating in humanitarian missions.


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