21 August 2004 -- Nepalese officials say they are trying to confirm reports that 12 Nepalese nationals had been seized by a militant group in Iraq.
A statement on the Internet purportedly issued by a group calling itself the Army of the Ansar al-Sunna said on 20 August that the 12 men were subcontracted to a Jordanian company and were working for the U.S. military in Iraq.
The authenticity of the statement could not be verified.
Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, has banned its nationals from traveling to or working in Iraq but many Nepalese are known to have gone there from elsewhere in the Middle East.
Scores of foreigners have been abducted by militants waging acampaign against countries and companies supporting U.S. forces in Iraq or by criminal gangs for ransom. Some hostages have been released but at least nine have been killed.