Iraq: Amnesty condemns continued violence by armed groups

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Stephen Bowen said:

“Armed groups must set free all hostages and refrain from kidnapping people or attacking civilians.

“Attacks on civilians are a breach of international law and could be a crime against humanity.”

An armed group that calls itself “The Secret Islamic Army” is holding at least seven hostages including three Indians, three Kenyans and one Egyptian. The group has threatened to behead one Indian hostage by 1500 GMT on Friday unless the Kuwaiti firm for which he works quits the country.

Another group called “The Death Squad of Iraqi Resistance” kidnapped four Jordanian workers on Thursday. The group vowed to take “appropriate measures” if the company that employed them did not stop working with the Americans. Two Syrian truck drivers from the same company were reportedly kidnapped on the same day. Another militant group seized a Somali driver and threatened to behead him unless his Kuwaiti employer stopped operating in Iraq on Thursday.

Two Pakistani hostages were executed on Wednesday after their employer refused to withdraw.

At least 70 people, the majority of them civilians, were killed and scores injured in a suicide attack in Baquba on Wednesday. The attack took place when a man in a car laden with explosives drove into a crowd of people. The people were queuing to apply for a job outside a police station in Baquba, north of Baghdad. At least 20 of those also killed were passing by on a bus.

Hundreds of civilians have so far died in direct or indiscriminate attacks by armed groups. Scores of foreign nationals working in Iraq have been seized in recent months and at least eight of them have been executed by armed groups. The groups are threatening to execute all hostages unless the companies employing them, or their respective home countries, pull out of Iraq. Stephen Bowen said:

“Amnesty International renews its call on armed groups to stop killing civilians, carrying out indiscriminate attacks in densely populated areas and to respect international humanitarian law, justice and humanity in their actions.”

The organisation also urges armed groups to immediately end the kidnappings as well as the torture and ill-treatment or killing of hostages.

Amnesty International is calling on the Iraqi Interim Government to bring to justice those responsible for these attacks.

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