Hostages’ families sweat it out


With the reported threat by their captors to “burn them alive”, the Japanese trio, who include a teenager and a woman, appeared to be in the most immediate danger.

A self-described Iraqi mediator said the group holding the Japanese would execute one within 24 hours and kill the others “12 hours later” unless Japan recalled its troops.

In other developments today, state media in Beijing said seven Chinese had been kidnapped by armed men in central Iraq.

A presumed American citizen, a Canadian aid worker and a group of 30 foreigners – not including the Chinese -have reportedly been kidnapped in Iraq in recent days.

In London, the Foreign Office confirmed today that Briton Gary Teeley, who was kidnapped in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, had been released and was safe and well.

In the US, President George W. Bush acknowledged America’s difficulties in Iraq as he went to Easter services at Fort Hood in Texas.

“Our troops are taking care of business,” he said.