Iraqi PM's relatives kidnapped and threatened with death
Militants demand release of prisoners, halt to Fallujah assault
An unknown Islamic group said it had abducted three relatives of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on Wednesday and warned it would behead them within 48 hours if he did not stop the assault on Fallujah.
Allawi's office acknowledged that three of his extended family members had been kidnapped but vowed the attack, "Operation Dawn," would not be affected.
The death threat, and a demand that all prisoners in Iraq be released, came on the second full day of a U.S.-led assault on Fallujah, and as marines said they expected to have taken control of the city within 48 hours.
"This is an act of terrorism and this issue will not affect the prime minister's decisions and actions against terrorists," Allawi's spokesman, Thaer al-Naqib, said.
Allawi's office earlier confirmed that the premier's cousin, Ghazi Allawi, 75, and Ghazi's daughter-in-law, whose name was not mentioned, had been abducted. It later said that the man's wife was kidnapped too.
It said the three were snatched on Tuesday evening in the southern Yarmuk district of Baghdad.
"Ghazi Allawi is 75 years old. He has no political affiliation, and is not holding a government post," the statement said.
In an Internet statement monitored in Dubai, the previously unknown Group of Partisans of Holy War (Jamaat Ansar al-Jihad) said "elements" of its organization had "kidnapped three relatives" of Allawi.
The statement could not be immediately verified.
"We proclaim our responsibility for this blessed operation in this blessed month [of Ramadan], and we give the vassal government, in particular the agent Allawi, a deadline of 48 hours to respond to our conditions," it said.
"We demand the liberation of all prisoners in Iraq, women and men, and the lifting of the siege and the halt to the assault against Fallujah," it said.
If the government "does not satisfy our demands, they will be decapitated."
An official with the premier's Iraqi National Accord party, who is close to Allawi's family, said three cars carrying at least six men pulled up to the cousin's house and snatched the three family members at about 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
The source, who asked to remain anonymous, had no further details about the attack, which took place just hours after the tough-talking premier declared a night-time curfew in Baghdad in a bid to curb escalating violence.