BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A militant group said Wednesday it had taken six more hostages - three Indians, two Kenyans and an Egyptian - and would behead them if their countries did not immediately announce their intention to withdraw their citizens from Iraq.
In a statement given to The Associated Press, the group, calling itself "The Holders of the Black Banners," said it had abducted the six truckers and would behead one of them every 72 hours if their nations did not pull out of Iraq and the company they work for did not close its branch here. The deadline starts from 8 p.m. (noon EDT) Wednesday, it said.
"We have warned all the countries, companies, businessmen and truck drivers that those who deal with American cowboy occupiers will be targeted by the fires of the Mujahedeen," the statement said. "Here you are once again transporting, goods, weapons and military equipment that backs the U.S. Army."
None of those countries whose citizens is among the new captives is part of the 160,000-member coalition force in Iraq.
The statement came a day after militants released Filipino hostage Angelo dela Cruz, whose country gave in to his captors' demands and pulled its 51-member force out of Iraq.
Iraqi and U.S. officials expressed concerns that the Philippine pullout would embolden militants to take more hostages in an effort to drive a wedge between coalition countries and force trucking companies and other contractors to leave Iraq.
More than 60 foreigners have been taken hostage in Iraq in recent months.
In photos provided to AP with the statement, six of the hostages are shown standing behind three seated, masked gunmen. One of the hostages holds a paper with the typed names of seven men - presumably six of them were the hostages - their nationalities, passport numbers and the registration numbers of the trucks they were driving. The paper is stamped July 20 and the words "Universal Services" were handwritten on top.
The names on the paper were Ibrahim Khamis from Kenya, Salm Faiz Khamis from Kenya, Jalal Awadh from Kenya, Antaryami, from India, Tilak Raj, from India, Sukdev Singh, from India, and Mohammed Ali Sanad, from Egypt. It was not clear which of the Kenyans listed on the paper was not among the hostages.
From the statement, the trucking company that employed the men appeared to be based in Kuwait.