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Iraq Transition

Deadline passes; no word on hostages

Four U.S. soldiers, Iraqi election worker killed as election nears

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In a Saturday television statement, Tom Fox's daughter, Katharine, made a plea for her father's release.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- International concern for four Western humanitarian workers heightened Saturday as the hours before their execution deadline turned into minutes, then passed with no word on their fate.

A day after one of the aid worker's brothers joined several Iraqi Sunni clerics in pleading for their release, a well-known activist urged captors to release Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Sooden, 32; Briton Norman Kember, 74; and American Tom Fox, 54.

During an anti-war rally in London, American "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan urged the kidnappers to "rise above violence and let them go."

"I don't think this is going to help," said Sheehan, known for her protests outside the White House and President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. "This won't help the cause of ending the occupation. I know what my government is doing is wrong, and we're trying to stop that," she said. "The violence and killing has to end at some point."

A group calling itself the Swords of Justice Brigades threatened to execute the men on Thursday unless all Iraqi prisoners were released. The group later extended its deadline to Saturday. (Full story)

The brothers of James Loney, who was on his third trip to Iraq when he was kidnapped, said Friday that the Christian Peacemaker Teams workers were in Iraq because they had heard numerous stories of people being detained and mistreated by occupation forces.

"So it was important for my brother's team to be there to hear the testimonials of people who are being snatched up in the night and detained against their will," Edward Loney said.

Other humanitarian groups had kept tabs on such things in the past, but their ranks have been thinning because of the insurgent attacks, Matthew Loney added.

The brothers said they were encouraged by the support they've received from around the world, especially from Muslims. (Watch Iraqis praying for the release of the hostages -- 2:02)

The most recently released video of the men shows Kember and Fox blindfolded with their hands chained together. In it, Fox blames the American and British presence in Iraq for his plight.

"The only way that we can all be free is for the American and British soldiers to leave Iraq as soon as possible," he said.

Fox's daughter, Katharine, issued a statement Saturday, saying that she and her father believe the Iraqi people have legitimate concerns about the U.S. presence in Iraq, but "these grievances, however, will not be resolved by taking my father's life." (Watch a captive's daughter address his kidnappers -- 1:01)

Katharine Fox also seemed to say that her father would reject any attempts by U.S. troops to rescue him by force.

"My father is not willing to sacrifice his dedication to the Iraqi people for any armed assistance from the U.S. government," she said.

Violence continues

An Egyptian man was found dead near Tikrit on Saturday, a day after gunmen abducted him from his home of 10 years in the northern part of the city.

Mohammed Ibrahim al-Hilali, who was a contractor doing business with the U.S. military, was found Saturday morning on a road between Tikrit and Baiji, police said.

In other violence, four U.S. soldiers from Task Force Baghdad, which patrols the region in and around the capital, were killed Saturday. That brought the death toll for U.S. troops to 2,141 during the war.

A homemade bomb killed one of the soldiers in the Adhamiya district of north Baghdad. The other three were killed by small-arms fire, one in northwest Baghdad and two in the Yusufiya district southwest of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

The military on Saturday also announced two other troop deaths from earlier in the week.

A Task Force Baghdad soldier was killed Friday when a suicide car bomber attacked a unit operating the capital's Abu Ghraib district. The explosion also wounded 11 other soldiers and an Iraqi civilian.

And on Thursday, a National Guardsman with the 155th Brigade Combat Team died of a suspected heart attack while on guard duty at Forward Operating Base Kalsu.

Also Saturday, an Iraqi election worker was killed and another wounded during a drive-by shooting in Mosul. The workers, from the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab group, were hanging posters when they were shot.

Ramadi operations complete

The latest in a series of counter-insurgency operations in Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar province, has ended, the U.S. military said.

Operation Skinner, which began Wednesday in central Ramadi, was sparked by the migration of insurgents to the city, the military said. It was the seventh such action in the town since November 16.

The operation uncovered four weapons caches and "two command-initiated rocket systems designed to ambush passing convoys," the military said in a statement.

"Iraqi and U.S. forces also disrupted terrorist plans when they discovered an insurgent bomb-making factory in the center of the Ramadi shopping district. Artillery and mortar rounds, timers and remote detonators were found in the bomb-making facility," it said.

Also in Ramadi, local citizens on Friday delivered a top al Qaeda in Iraq operative, whom they had captured, the U.S. military said. It cited the capture as evidence that "the local citizens tire of the insurgents' presence within their community."

Amir Khalaf Fanus, aka the "Butcher," was wanted in connection with several killings and kidnappings and was No. 3 on the most-wanted list of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team that patrols the area west of Baghdad.

It was not immediately known if Fanus might have any information on the whereabouts of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most-wanted man in Iraq, who has a $25 million reward on his head.

His group has carried out numerous bomb attacks on local Iraqis, U.S. forces and Iraqi forces. The group also has perpetrated multiple kidnappings that have resulted in the beheadings of the victims.

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