Militants execute second hostage

There was no immediate word of the fate of a British man also being held by the group.

Yesterday the militants, led by al-Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said they had beheaded American Eugene Armstrong, the first of three contractors seized last week.

In a video of Armstrong’s killing Tawid said that it would behead their other two captives within a day unless women inmates were freed from Abu Ghraib and Umm Qasr jails.

Al Jazeera television said a statement announcing the killing of fellow American Jack Hensley, 48, was on the internet.

On one Islamist site, a contributor who has in the past posted messages in the name of the group said he was dead.

“The sons of our nation have slit the throat of the second American hostage after the deadline passed and we will provide you with pictures soon,” said the contributor, who goes by the pseudonym Abu Maysarah al-Iraqi.

The US State Department could not confirm the killing.

President George W Bush has said Washington will not negotiate, and at the United Nations today he vowed not to retreat against an insurgency he said was likely to bring increased violence in coming months.

The US military says there are no women in either of the named prisons, and only two women in US detention in Iraq.

The high-profile two, nicknamed “Mrs Anthrax” and “Dr Germ”, are accused of working on Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs and are held at a secret high-security camp.

Before the report of Hensley’s death, the family of British hostage Kenneth Bigley, 62, urged the prime minister to have the two women freed, though there was no confirmation from the kidnappers that this was specifically what they were seeking.

Armstrong, Hensley and Bigley were seized by gunmen from the house they shared in Baghdad on Thursday.

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