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Archbishop Freed and chinese prisoners of war ....

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Eight Chinese taken hostage in Iraq as archbishop goes free


50 minutes ago Mideast - AFP




BAGHDAD (AFP) - Kidnappers released footage of eight Chinese hostages it threatened to execute unless Beijing "clarifies its role" in Iraq (news - web sites), while a Syrian Catholic archbishop was released a day after being captured.


As the campaign for the January 30 general elections kicked into second gear despite the violence, US Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) acknowledged shortcomings in the training of the Iraqi security forces.



In a tape broadcast on Arab news networks and showing eight Chinese nationals holding up their passports guarded by two hooded men, the kidnappers charged the group had "worked with US forces in Iraq".



"We ask the Chinese government to clarify its position toward those and other Chinese who have entered Iraq to help occupation forces," said one of them without identifying his organisation.



The Chinese embassy in Baghdad confirmed that eight construction workers from the southern province of Fujian had been abducted last week on the main highway from Iraq to Jordan, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.



Another video released Tuesday showed a Lebanese held by a previously unknown group on charges of working with the US military. The embassy could not immediately confirm his capture.



The latest hostage crisis came quick on the heels of another kidnapping episode that sent shockwaves through Iraq's small Christian minority.



A Syrian Catholic archibishop nabbed in the northern city of Mosul on Monday afternoon, was released by his captors less than 24 hours later.



Monsignor Basile Georges Casmoussa said after his release that he had been treated well and explained that the kidnappers had captured him by mistake and did not request a ransom for his release.



Yet his statement contradicted earlier declarations by a senior prelate who said money was being collected to free him, as well as his own driver's version of events.



While most of the ethnic-torn country's Christian leaders downplayed the kidnapping by blaming criminal gangs, the short crisis raised the spectre of growing sectarian strife ahead of the elections.


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