NEWS AND ANALYSIS - COUNTDOWN TO INDEPENDENCE
DUBAI (Reuters) - A militant group in Iraq said it had killed two Macedonian hostages whom it accused of spying for the United States, Arabic television Al Jazeera said Monday. Al Jazeera said it had received a video tape showing the killing of the men, accompanied by a statement from the Islamic Army in Iraq. It did not broadcast the killing.It did not name the hostages and it was not clear whether they were among a group of three men -- Dalibor Lazarevski, Dragan Markovic, Zoran Naskovski -- who were seized by militants in Iraq in August.Al Jazeera aired a segment of the video showing two men speaking to the camera and then another shot of what appeared to be their passports. Their speech was not audible.Militants have kidnapped and killed several foreigners in Iraq to pressure their governments and private companies to end cooperation with the U.S.-led forces.Macedonia has 32 soldiers in Iraq. The three Macedonians known to be hostage were builders for United Arab Emirates-based Soufan Engineering, catering to the needs of the U.S. military and its private contractor firms.
Two Macedonian construction workers kidnapped south of Baghdad have been beheaded, and the group claiming responsibility accused the men of working as spies for U.S. forces in Iraq, the Arab television network Al-Jazeera has reported.The Qatar-based network aired videotape showing the men, believed to be the first Macedonians kidnapped in Iraq, but not their executions.Al-Jazeera said it received the tape from the Islamic Army in Iraq, which claimed responsibility for the deaths.The tape also showed the men's identification papers, including their photographs.The Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was trying to confirm the Al-Jazeera report.The men worked for the U.S. company Soufan Engineering and were kidnapped near a U.S. base on August 28.Macedonia has contributed about 40 soldiers to the coalition forces in Iraq.
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