An anxious France has scrambled to obtain the release of two French journalists taken hostage in Iraq by Islamic militants demanding the rescinding of a ban on the Islamic headscarf in French schools.
The kidnappers from the Islamic Army in Iraq, the same group which killed Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni after taking him hostage, gave Paris a 48-hour ultimatum to meet its demands, Qatar-based Arabic-language Al-Jazeera television said citing “our own sources in Iraq.”
The channel identified the kidnapped Frenchmen as missing journalists Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale and Georges Malbrunot of Paris daily Le Figaro and said it had received video footage of the two newsmen.
The pair went missing on August 20 after leaving Baghdad for the Iraqi Shi’ite holy city of Najaf, where US forces were fighting Shi’ite Muslim militiamen.
The group is demanding that “France rescinds within 48 hours the law banning” Islamic headscarves in schools, describing the law as “an injustice and an attack on the Islamic religion and individual freedoms,” Al-Jazeera said.
The French interior ministry announced a meeting had been called of the French Committee of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) by Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin.
“More than ever the services of the French embassy in Baghdad, like the French authorities, are mobilised,” a spokesman for the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Once again we call for the liberation of the two French journalists,” he went on, adding that the ministry would not make any further comment at this stage.0