BAGHDAD (AFP) – Radical Shiite Islamists who claim to have kidnapped a US military contractor of Iraqi origin said on Sunday they are also holding a second American hostage captured two years ago.
“Two Americans are in the hands of the League of the Righteous,” said an official from the militant group, which on Saturday aired a video of a man it identified as Issa Salomi, a civilian employee the Pentagon said went missing in Baghdad two weeks ago.
“One was taken two years ago and the other some days ago,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The Pentagon confirmed on Saturday that Salomi — an American citizen of Iraqi origin employed as a contractor for the US military — has been missing since January 23.
The US embassy in Baghdad has not make any comment on Salomi or the second US citizen whom the militants claim to be holding.
The official said Salomi was captured in Karkh, on the west bank of the Tigris river in Baghdad, and the other captive was taken in Karrada, a busy business district in the heart of the Iraqi capital.
The second American could be US army Sergeant Ahmed Qusai al-Taie, also of Iraqi origin, who was reported missing on October 23, 2006.
An undated and soundless video of him appeared on the US television network CNN in February the following year having first been posted on the Internet by the League of the Righteous.
Taie left the heavily-guarded international “Green Zone” in Baghdad without his superiors’ permission to visit close relatives at a family home in Karrada.
Local media later reported that he was killed but there has been no official confirmation.
The League of the Righteous told AFP it abducted Salomi in response to the Iraqi government’s failure to release its members from US-run jails and because of fresh arrests.
The militant group kidnapped British IT expert Peter Moore and his four bodyguards, also Britons, in Baghdad in May 2007.
Moore was released unharmed in December last year but all his guards are thought to have been killed. Three of their bodies have so far been returned.
The group entered into a reconciliation process with the Iraqi government in April 2009, but last month it said it was considering halting the talks.
In the video, which runs less than two minutes, Salomi reads out the group’s demands for the release of detainees who had “resisted occupation” and “never been involved in any serious crime against their fellow innocent Iraqis.”
Salomi, pictured against a black flag bearing the militant group’s name, also called for the conviction of employees of US security firm Blackwater, since renamed Xe Services, accused of killing unarmed Iraqi citizens in 2007.
The hostage, who spoke in English but without an American accent, said he was in good health.
Salomi’s wife, Muna, 52, told the Washington Post that the man pictured in the video was her husband and she was distraught at the news. “I’m very sick. I cannot talk,” she said.