Al Qaeda Threatens to Behead Three Turkish Hostages
Turkey’s defense minister said Sunday that Turkey will not negotiate with Islamic militants in Iraq who are threatening to behead three Turkish hostages, reports said. Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul made his statement after a meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ahead of a NATO summit, which starts here on Monday. ”Turkey will not bow to pressure from terrorists,” private CNN-Turk and TV8 televisions quoted Gonul as saying.
Supporters of Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a suspected al-Qaida terrorist, say they will behead the hostages by Tuesday if Turkish companies continue to do business with American occupation forces in Iraq. They are also calling for large demonstrations in Turkey against the war and President Bush. On Sunday, more than 40,000 people protested Bush and the NATO summit but the protest was planned long before the hostage-taking.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that the United States is doing all it can locate and free three Turkish nationals kidnapped by terrorists in Iraq. ”We hope it will be possible to rescue them, but it’s a dangerous situation,” Powell said in an interview from Turkey with CNN’s ”Late Edition.” ”Once again this shows that we’re dealing with a terrible terrorist organization, led by Mr. al-Zarqawi, that doesn’t care about human life, that doesn’t care about the Iraqi people,” Powell said.
The hostage-taking and escalating violence increases pressure on Bush and others in his administration during their visit to Turkey for a summit of the 26-member NATO alliance.
The cycle continues.
Presumably, calling for protest rallies is rather like college “wear jeans to support gay rights” days–something that was going to happen anyway is portrayed as support for the cause. It is rather creepy, though, that 40,000 people are doing what al Qaeda asks.
UPDATE (6/29): Reuters — Turkey Says Three Hostages Released in Iraq
Turkey on Tuesday said three Turkish hostages held under threat of execution by an al Qaeda-linked militant group in Iraq (news – web sites) had been freed.
“We only know they have been released,” a Turkish government official told Reuters, saying he had no other immediate details.
Al Jazeera television, monitored in Dubai, said a group led by suspected al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had freed the three.
The group had kidnapped the three civilian workers last week and threatened to behead them on Tuesday unless Turks (news – web sites) stopped working for U.S.-led forces in Iraq.
State-run Anatolian news agency said Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul confirmed the release of the three hostages.
“Jama’at al-Tawhid and Jihad announces the release of the Turkish hostages for the sake of Muslims in Turkey and their demonstrations against (U.S. President George W.) Bush,” a masked man said on a video recording aired by Jazeera.
“We will return these men to a safe place after they vowed to end their support for the infidels (Americans). We also ask your foolish people to end their cooperation with the occupiers or we will execute them.”
A three-day visit by Bush to Turkey for a NATO (news – web sites) summit has been met by widespread demonstrations against his policies in Iraq. Public opinion in Muslim Turkey has been strongly against the U.S.-led invasion.
The grainy Jazeera video showed the three Turks sitting on the floor with masked, armed men standing behind them. A banner on a wall carried the name of Jordanian-born Zarqawi’s Jama’at al-Tawhid group.
Another two Turkish men taken hostage in Iraq three weeks ago have told their families they are well and will return to Turkey within a week, Turkish media reported on Tuesday.
Great news, if a bit bizarre.