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An hitherto unknown Islamist group said it abducted three relatives of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and would kill them in 48 hours if his interim Government did not halt a US-led assault on Fallujah and free prisoners.
Dr Allawi's cousin and two others were seized early on Tuesday (local time).
"If the agent government does not meet our demands within 48 hours we will behead them," the group calling itself Ansar al-Jihad [Holy War Followers] said in a statement dated Wednesday and posted on a website used by Islamists.
From: Guardian: Allawi relatives kidnapped
"This is yet another criminal act by terrorists and will not thwart the determination of the government to combat terrorism," the government said in a brief statement.
In its statement, Ansar al-Jihad demanded the release of all Iraqi prisoners, a demand similar to those made by other militant groups.
Referring to the holy month of Ramadan, it said: "With the help of God in this holy month, a unit of Ansar al-Jihad kidnapped three relatives of head of the Iraqi agents, Allawi. May God burn him and slaughter him."
From: Scotsman: Allawi's Relatives Freed by Kidnappers
Kidnappers have released two women relatives of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, two pan-Arab satellite channels broadcast today.
But the Iraqi government said it had no knowledge of the release.
Al-Jazeera TV, which is based in Qatar, quoted unidentified sources as saying the two women were freed in Baqouba, central Iraq.
Al-Arabiya, which is based in Dubai, reported that unidentified government officials had confirmed the women’s release.
Both channels said Ghazi Allawi was still a hostage.