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Video purportedly shows killing of American hostage

Video purportedly shows killing of American hostage

BAGHDAD, Iraq — A video posted by an extremist group on a Web site Monday showed a man it said was an American hostage being shot in the back of the head and claimed the victim was U.S. contractor Ronald Allen Schulz.

The German government, meanwhile, said one of its citizens released by kidnappers was expected to leave Iraq soon. But there was no word on the fate of four other Western hostages — an American, a Briton and two Canadians — kidnapped in late November.

The Islamic Army of Iraq said the man shown in the video was Schulz. The group issued an Internet statement Dec. 8 saying he had been killed after the United States failed to respond to its demand for the release of Iraqi prisoners, and that pictures of the slaying would be released later.

The video did not show the man's face and it was impossible to identify him conclusively. The victim was kneeling with his back to the camera, his hands tied behind his back and an Arab headdress wrapped around his head. He toppled over after the first shot, and then was shot repeatedly.

In separate film, shown on a split screen as the killing was aired, the group showed a picture of Schulz alive. The group aired the same footage when Schulz was first taken hostage earlier this month. The video also showed Schulz's identity card.

The group identified Schulz as a security consultant for the Iraqi Housing Ministry, although neighbors and family from Alaska, where he lives, say he is an industrial electrician who has worked on contracts around the world.

Schulz, a native of North Dakota, served in the Marines from 1984 to 1991. He moved to Alaska six years ago, and friends and family say he is divorced.

The Islamic Army of Iraq is believed to include former Baathists and loyalists to Saddam Hussein, plus Sunni Salafist Islamic extremists and former Palestinian militants who lived in Iraq under Saddam's rule.

In the past, it has been implicated in the killing of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, as well as the abduction of French journalists and the slaying of Pakistani contractors and Macedonians working for a U.S. company.

On Monday, the German government said 43-year-old aid worker and archaeologist Susanne Osthoff — who was released a day earlier — was expected to leave Iraq soon. She had been held hostage for three weeks.

Officials left several questions unanswered about the kidnapping and release of Osthoff, the first German taken hostage in Iraq. It is not clear who kidnapped her.

In Berlin, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger refused to comment on the circumstances of her release or on who, other than German authorities, may have been involved.

Jaeger said Osthoff was "safely in the care of the German Embassy" in Baghdad and that she was expected to leave the country "in the very near future."

Osthoff disappeared along with her Iraqi driver on Nov. 25.

Days later, the two were shown in a videotape blindfolded and sitting on a floor, with militants — one armed with a rocket-propelled grenade — standing beside them. The captors threatened to kill the hostages unless Germany stopped dealing with the Iraqi government.

Germany opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and refused to send troops here, but it has been training Iraqi soldiers and police outside the country.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Sunday that the kidnappers had promised to free the Iraqi driver as well.

There has been no word on four Christian activists kidnapped by the previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigade. The group had threatened to kill the four unless all prisoners were released.

The four members of Christian Peacemaker Teams are Norman Kember, 74, of London; Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va.; and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32. Christian Peacemaker Teams has been working in Iraq since 2002, investigating allegations of abuse against Iraqi detainees and promoting peace.

Iraq was swept by a wave of kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners in 2004 and early 2005, but abductions decreased in recent months as many Western groups have left and security precautions for those who remain have tightened.

Insurgents, including al-Qaida in Iraq, have seized more than 240 foreigners and killed at least 39.

Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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