Foreigners, locals, Muslims - none are safe from the hostage-takers

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The Independent Online

More than 150 foreigners have been kidnapped by Islamist terrorists and local insurgents since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime last year - but few of them have hit the headlines in Britain.

More than 150 foreigners have been kidnapped by Islamist terrorists and local insurgents since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime last year - but few of them have hit the headlines in Britain.

Many have been ordinary civilian workers and contractors, including Turkish lorry drivers, Egyptians, Nepalese cooks, Japanese aid workers, and Macedonian contractors. Some are held for ransom, but many are kidnapped for political reasons.

Precise figures are hard to come by, but it is thought that at least 30 have been murdered by their captors - including a dozen Nepalese men, brought to Iraq as cooks and cleaners, killed in August.

Also among the dead are six Turks, including one driver, Ramazan Elbu, shown being beheaded on a militant Islamist website 10 days ago. One of his compatriots, Abdurrahman Yildirim, a 21-year-old welder, was luckier. He escaped from his abductors last week. An Australian TV journalist - one of a number of foreign reporters who have been targeted - was released by his captors after being held for 24 hours.

But other captives suffer far worse fates. During the furore over the kidnapping and release of the two Italian charity workers, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, the capture and murder of another Italian national went largely unreported. Iyad Anwar Wali, who died on 2 October, was also half Turkish. He was forced to confess to being a "spy" and was shot on camera.

Other Muslims have not been ignored. Alongside Turks and Egyptians, kidnappers have targeted, and often killed, Pakistani, Lebanese, Jordanian, Kuwaiti and Syrian civilians.

And amid the chaos in Iraq, hundreds of Iraqis - including doctors and wealthy businessmen - have been kidnapped for ransom.

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