Monday, May 09, 2005

VE Day celebrations as Iraq chaos continues

George W Bush is continuing his tour of the eastern block, today arriving in Georgia. President Putin made a speech in VE Day ceremonies in which he made reference to Bush’s critical remarks from the previous day. “We do not make distinction between those who took part in the liberation of Europe”, he said, and continued by mentioning them by name, France Britain and America. Victory in Europe anniversary celebrations have continued today in St Helena in the Channel Islands. In Iraq meanwhile the US say they have killed 50 insurgents in fighting near the Syrian border. It is not clear whether this is the same incident referred to by Iraqi army sources yesterday, in which ’20 insurgents were killed’. The hostage taking continues as a Japanese national was taken by the Army of Ansar Al-Sunna. In a statement released on their website, the insurgents claimed the death of 4 other contractors and 12 Iraqi guards who were travelling with Akihiko Saito, 44. One of the posted ID cards belonging to Saito which identified him as a security manager of Hart GMSSCO, a British-based security firm. Hart CEO Simon Falkner said in London that there was an ambush with casualties Sunday night involving Hart personnel, but would not confirm whether Saito was an employee and if he had been seized. Insurgents say they ambushed the convoy near Hit, west of Baghdad, and said a fierce battle erupted between the fighters and those in the convoy. Hit is located about 110 km from where U.S. forces say they have launched a major offensive against militants near the Syrian border. It was not known if this offensive had any connection to the ambush.

As the deadline for an Australian hostage comes to an end, no word has yet been heard from his captors. Sixty three year old Douglas Wood, who was working in Iraq as an engineer, has not been seen since his capture apart from a video posted by insurgents on their website. Meanwhile a senior Muslim cleric in Australia, Sheikh Taj Al-DinAl-Hilali, has flown to Iraq in an attempt to secure his release. Australian PM John Howard has said he will not accede to the hostage-takers demands.

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