A prominent Islamic group in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad has called for the release of two French hostages held by militants for the past 11 days. The abductors have threatened to kill the two men if France did not repeal its law banning students from wearing Islamic headscarves in school. A spokesman for the Committee of Islamic Scholars in Baghdad says killing the French hostages is not the way to solve Iraq's problems. Mohammed Bashar al-Faizi says the country has a bigger problem and that is the occupation, which has a big impact on the Islamic world. "The killing of the two French hostages will not to be our advantage," he said. "From the beginning, France was against the war." Mr. al-Faizi made his appeal as France kept up its diplomatic efforts to free journalists Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot, who were taken hostage while en-route to the city of Najaf on August 20. Foreign Minister Michel Barnier spent a second day lobbying governments in the Middle East for support for the hostages release. The group holding them, the Islamic Army of Iraq, is demanding that the French government repeal a law that prohibits students from wearing religious symbols, including Islamic headscarves, to school. France has rejected that demand, reports VOANews. According to Guardian Unlimited, a video purporting to show the execution-style murder of 12 Nepalese workers kidnapped in Iraq was posted today on a website linked to an Islamist militant group. If confirmed, the killings would mark the largest number of foreign hostages killed at one time by insurgents in Iraq who have seized more than 100 hostages in recent months. In Katmandu, Nepal's foreign minister, Prakash Sharan Mahat, said officials were still checking the reports and the government had called an emergency cabinet meeting. "If it is true it is shocking because there were no demand or deadlines ... that makes it even more shocking," the minister said before the meeting. In a separate hostage crisis, France held crisis talks in Paris and around the Arab world today to save the lives of French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who are being held by a different militant group that has demanded France rescind its ban on head scarves in French schools. They were shown on television early today pleading for their lives. The militant demand that a French ban on Islamic head scarves be overturned has raised an unprecedented backlash among religious and political leaders in the Middle East, who have often been silent about hostage slayings and other terrorism. They say those holding two French journalists have desecrated Islam and mindlessly struck out at a country considered a friend to Arabs. Such comments contrasted with muted reaction in the region Tuesday when a grisly video surfaced on a militant Muslim Web site showing the purported killing of 12 Nepalese workers kidnapped in Iraq. The group that claimed responsibility had accused the Nepalese of working for the U.S. military. One Iraqi cleric told Al-Arabiya TV that their deaths, while regrettable, were understandable because "their work is military work." Journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot disappeared Aug. 19 on their way from the Iraqi capital to the southern city of Najaf. A group calling itself "The Islam Army in Iraq" claims to be holding the two and has demanded France abolish its ban on Muslim head scarves in public schools. France has said it would press ahead with the law, which goes into effect when school resumes later this week, publishes Newsday.
Read earlier news stories by PRAVDA.Ru &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/20/91/366/12472_Iraq.html ' target=_blank> Iraq: the more hostages, the closer the end of occupation? ...
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