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Iraqi Cleric Urges Militants Not To Kill Hostages

(RFE/RL) 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.