Kidnappers: 'Last chance' for hostages
Candy store bombing near Hilla kills 10, wounds three
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(CNN) -- Kidnappers in Iraq have renewed their threat to kill four Western hostages unless U.S.-led forces release Iraqi prisoners, Arabic TV network Al-Jazeera reported Saturday.
A new videotape showing the four -- two Canadians, an American and a Briton working with the Christian Peacemaker Teams -- was aired on the Arabic-language news network Saturday, but was dated January 21. However, CNN cannot confirm when the footage was shot.
Al-Jazeera aired the video and an anchor read the group's message that it will provide one "last chance" for its demand -- free all Iraqi prisoners in U.S. or Iraqi custody or the four will be executed. (Watch video of hostages -- 1:13)
The men were abducted in Iraq on November 26 by kidnappers calling themselves the Swords of Righteousness Brigades.
The group to which the four belong, Christian Peacemaker Teams, says its mission is to provide "organizational support to persons committed to faith-based nonviolent alternatives in situations where lethal conflict is an immediate reality or is supported by public policy."
"The Iraqi group holding the four missing CPT-ers extended their timeline for the release of all Iraqi prisoners until 10 December 2005. The date has passed and we have no update at this time," the Christian group's Web site had been saying.
The four are James Loney and Harmeet Sooden of Canada, Tom Fox of the United States and Norman Kember of Britain.
The Christian Peacemakers, the families of the captives and other supporters have made appeals for the freeing of the four, stressing the group's critical views of U.S. and British actions in Iraq.
The footage showed a shot of the men standing by a wall and one of them talking while seated. Their voices could not be heard.
The British Foreign Office said it was checking the video, but had no further comment.
The Rev. Alan Betteridge, president of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of which Kember, 74, is a member, said he was happy that the four apparently are alive but concerned with the threat against them.
"We are glad to have some evidence that the four captives are still alive, but we are very sad that the captors still repeat this threat of killing them that they issued two months ago," Betteridge, a close friend of Kember, told Reuters by telephone.
"We're very sorry that they're still talking in those violent terms after all the appeals from the Muslim world and others for the release of these nonviolent peacemakers who were in Iraq for the benefit of justice and peace in that land."
In a message to the captors, Betteridge said, "Please, release these four people who are there genuinely as nonviolent peacemakers. Please let them return home so they may continue their good work which is for the benefit of people in Iraq and elsewhere.
Hostage-taking has been one of the insurgency's tactics in Iraq.
Jill Carroll, a freelance journalist for The Christian Science Monitor, was abducted January 7, and her kidnappers demanded that all female Iraqi prisoners be released. There is no word on her fate.
Al-Jazeera aired a video Friday showing a pair of German hostages who were kidnapped in Baiji earlier in the week. (Full story)
The airing of the video came a day after the U.S. military released 424 detainees, among them five Iraqi women.
Candy store bombed
The day after gunmen shot and killed at least six Iraqis, five of them police officers and one an army intelligence officer, a bomb detonated Saturday inside a candy store, killing 10 people and wounding three, police said.
The store is in Iskandriya, bout 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad.
Also Saturday, a Baghdad University professor was shot dead, police said. Abdul Razaq Al-Naas was driving in his car at 3 p.m. when gunmen blocked his car's path and shot him. He was a professor in the school's college of information and also appeared on TV stations as a political analyst.
The U.S. military announced Saturday that two more U.S. troops were killed. A Marine was killed Friday in Fallujah "in a non-hostile vehicle accident" and a U.S. soldier was killed Saturday in central Baghdad when his "vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb," the U.S. military said.
This brings the number of U.S. troop deaths in the Iraq war to 2,239.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military said it had wrapped up Operation Koa Canyon along the western Euphrates River Valley. The operation, which began January 15 north of Hit, yielded 45 weapons caches and the detention of 20 suspected insurgents, according to a military statement.
CNN's Saad Abedine and CNN Producer Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.
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