BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- An Iraqi militant group said today it kidnapped a U.S. civilian contractor last month and was negotiating the release of the body of another.
A senior leader of Shi'ite militia Asaib al-Haq, or Leagues of Righteousness, said the abducted contractor, whom he did not name, was seized because the government was not keeping a promise to free Asaib al-Haq supporters from prison.
Such a deal was widely believed to have been behind the release by the same group of British computer programmer Peter Moore in December after 2 1/2 years in captivity, despite Iraqi and British government denials of a link.
"The government is carrying out many violations against us," the militant leader told Reuters, asking not to be identified.
In a video distributed today, the abducted contractor said he was in good health and was being treated kindly. He wore a U.S. military uniform and spoke in English.
He said his captors demanded the release of all detained members of their group, and that guards of the U.S. security firm Blackwater be prosecuted for a shooting at a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007 in which 14 Iraqi civilians died.
Asaib al-Haq also demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraqi soil. Around 115,000 U.S. soldiers remain in Iraq, almost seven years after the invasion that ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.
The U.S. military in Iraq declined to comment on the video.
Instead, it distributed a U.S. Department of Defense statement issued on February 5 that said a civilian employee of U.S. forces in Iraq, Issa T. Salomi, 60, of El Cajon, California, had been unaccounted for since January 23.
The Asaib al-Haq leader said his group was also negotiating with the Iraqi government over the handover of the body of a U.S. contractor kidnapped and killed in 2006 by another group.
He said his group had received the body of the contractor, identified as Ahmed Qusay al-Taie, from the other militant organization and would release it once it received an assurance from his wife that she would not sue Asaib al-Haq.