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Kidnappers killed guard: Chalabi

September 05, 2004

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BAGHDAD, Sept 4: Iraq's hostage crisis took a new twist on Saturday as the militant group holding the two French reporters claimed responsibility for an attack on a leading politician and announced it had taken one of his bodyguards captive but that he was now dead.

In a video shown by the Al Jazeera network, the Islamic Army said the hostage died of his wounds, but his boss, Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi accused the extremists of assassinating him.

The militant group thought to be based mainly in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, has demanded Paris lift a controversial ban on headscarves in state schools to secure the release of French journalists Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot and their Syrian driver.

Hopes the journalists' release was imminent were deflated on Friday night as Malbrunot's girlfriend Sylvie Cherpin told reporters that French foreign ministry officials had informed her the release could still take days.-AFP