Execution deadline for kidnapped journalists expires

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Iraqi terrorists extended the ultimatum by calling Romanian Prima TV, the station where two of the kidnapped journalists worked. The news director of Prima TV Dan Dumitru, said he received a call from Iraq on late Tuesday, in which he spoke both to the kidnappers and the journalists. The kidnappers gave the government a further 24 hours to withdraw their troops, while the kidnapped journalists told Dumitru to put pressure on the Romanian government for the withdrawal of the troops. The three made a "final appeal" to the Romanian president, Traian Băsescu, to withdraw the troops, saying that the time of their killing was set on Wednesday, at 14:00 UTC.

The Islamic terrorists which kidnapped three Romanian journalists last month extended the deadline for their execution from Tuesday to today. In a tape aired on Al-Jazeera last Friday, the terrorists, who call themselves the Muadh ibn Jabal Brigades, gave the Romanian government until Tuesday, at 14:00 UTC, to withdraw their 860 troops from Iraq, or otherwise the journalists would be killed. On Monday, the Romanian Prime Minister, Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, said that his country would not yield to terrorist demands, and it appears that this has caused the extension of the ultimatum by a day.

Yesterday, Bucharest and other Romanian cities were filled by ralliers asking for the release of the troops, holding up banners saying "Freedom" in English, Romanian and Arabic. Also, the mother of Sorin Miscoci, one of the hostages said, "This is the hardest day, we are thinking that their hours are numbered. We trust the authorities until the end." Vasile Ion, the father of Marie-Jeanne Ion, another hostage, said, "We call for the urgent withdrawal of the Romanian contingent from Iraq, before it is too late for our children. The kidnappers have made a political threat and they are waiting for a political response."

Commentators from Prima TV observed that, on the tape shown by the terrorists, one of the journalists, Sorin Miscoci, was wearing orange overalls. The commentators described this as culoarea morţii ("the colour of death"), since Iraqi terrorists had previously dressed hostages in orange, as an attempt to show that their threats were serious.

The Romanian government has not made any official comment after the extension of the deadline. In its last official statement, it said that it would not withdraw the troops. A Romanian pullout would be seen as a significant blow to the US-led Coalition of the Willing, since Romania currently has one of the largest contingents in Iraq.