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Japan Will Not Withdraw Troops From Iraq

Prague, 8 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The Japanese government has said it will not withdraw troops from Iraq following the kidnapping of three Japanese civilians.

The Al-Jazeera television network aired a video today showing three Japanese civilians who it said were kidnapped by a little-known Iraqi group called Saraya al-Mujahedin (Mujahedin Brigades), which threatened to kill the hostages unless Japanese troops leave Iraq within three days.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda rejected the ultimatum, and demanded the immediate release of the hostages. He stressed that Japan's forces in Iraq are on a noncombat reconstruction mission.

Meanwhile, seven South Korean missionaries who had also been kidnapped were released in Iraq today. The South Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed the release, but offered no details.

Two Israeli Arabs and a British contractor have also been reported missing in Iraq in separate incidents in the past day.