Group Threatens to Kill Lebanese Armenian Hostage in Iraq

DUBAI (AFP)–A previously unheard of group in Iraq threatened to kill a Lebanese hostage it accused of working with a liquor distribution firm that "deals with the occupiers," according to a video posted on the Internet.

"The Group for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" said it had "captured an importer of food and liquor in Baghdad who works for a company that deals directly with the crusader occupiers of Iraq."

It demanded the company’s "withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible in order to free the Lebanese hostage–otherwise woe on him and you."

The hostage–who–speaking in Arabic–gave the Armenian name of Garabet Jean Chekerjian–said he held dual Lebanese and Cypriot nationality. He was shown in the footage sitting on the floor with his hands and feet tied.

A hooded gunman pointed an automatic weapon at his head.

The captive exhorted Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and the Lebanese embassy in Baghdad to put pressure on his employers to pull out of Iraq.

"I hold dual Lebanese and Cypriot nationality and I work with the branches of the ‘Jetco Trading’ (phonetic) company in Lebanon–Cyprus and Iraq. The company supplies foodstuffs and alcoholic beverages to the occupation forces and the Iraqi army," he said.

"I urge the company to leave Iraq and I ask the Lebanese embassy to put pressure on the company and its owner to sever links with the occupation forces and the Iraqi army."

Addressing unspecified people he named as "Gebran–Avo and Rita," as well as Lahoud–the captive called on all Lebanese companies to quit Iraq–which he said was occupied "as Lebanon had been 15 years ago."

Dozens of foreigners have been kidnapped by anti-US insurgents in Iraq and some have been executed by their captors.

About 30 Lebanese working for private companies in Iraq have been kidnapped and later freed–most of them in exchange for a ransom. But in September 2004–one Lebanese national was killed by his captors and three others died during an attempted kidnap.

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