A statement purportedly from the captors of two French journalists in Iraq gave France 48 hours Monday to accept three new conditions – agreeing to a recent truce offer by Osama bin Laden, paying a $5 million ransom and pledging not to get involved in Iraq.
The Islamic Army of Iraq has decided to make “the following demands to release the two French hostages,” said a statement posted on an Islamic Web site. The statement, whose authenticity could not be confirmed, listed the demands as “accepting a truce between them and Sheik Osama bin Laden, paying a $5 million ransom and pledging not to engage militarily and commercially in Iraq.”
The ransom demand and fresh deadline were the first word from the kidnappers since a previous ultimatum expired on Wednesday. The Islamic Army in Iraq previously had demanded that France revoke a new law banning Muslim head scarves in state schools. France refused the demands, and the law took effect on Thursday. French officials suggested last week that the hostages were no longer in the hands of their original captors and had been turned over to an Iraqi group that opposes the U.S.-backed Iraqi authorities in Baghdad.0