9 December 2005 -- An influential Iraqi Sunni cleric today called on a group of militants not to kill their Western hostages.
Sheikh Ahmed al-Samaraie made his call at Friday prayers in the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad, a main center for Sunni worship in the capital.
Al-Samaraie made that call as a 10 December deadline nears for the execution of four hostages -- two Canadians, and American and a Briton.
In separate developments, the U.S. military said on 9 December that it has detained a senior Al-Qaeda operative in Iraq.
The military released a statement saying that Iraqi civilians handed over Amir Khalaf Fanus -- who was wanted for murder and hostage taking -- to U.S. and Iraqi troops in Al-Ramadi, west of the capital.