Militant leader puts £150,000 bounty on head of Iraqi PM

By James Burleigh

19 July 2004


The militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has put a bounty on the head of Iraq's Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, according to a statement posted on an Islamist website.

It offered a reward of 200,000 Jordanian dinars (£150,000) to "whoever gets us Allawi's head". The United States has offered $25m (£13m) for the capture of Zarqawi, its top militant target in Iraq.

Meanwhile the Philippines said it would complete the withdrawal of its peace-keeping contingent from Iraq today in an apparent effort to save a Filipino hostage threatened with beheading by Iraqi insurgents. The group holding Angelo de la Cruz, a truck driver kidnapped on 7 July near Fallujah, had said that it would release him only if all Philippine peace-keepers were withdrawn by 20 July, but on Thursday extended the deadline to the end of July.

Delia Albert, Foreign Secretary of the Philippines, said in a statement yesterday that the 22 peace-keepers remaining from the original 51-strong deployment would make an "exit call" on the new Polish commander at Camp Charlie in Iraq's Babil province today.

They would be accompanied by Roy Cimatu, a special envoy of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo helping Filipino diplomats in Iraq secure Mr De la Cruz's release. "After the call, the remaining contingent will proceed to Kuwait, and from there, return to Manila by commercial flight," Ms Albert said.

A prominent left-wing group, Migrante, which had called for the pullout, welcomed the development. But it called on Ms Arroyo to withdraw support for the US-led invasion force to remove potential threats to about 4,000 Filipino contract workers in Iraq and more than 1.4 million Filipinos in the Middle East.

Manila's allies, including the US and Australia, criticised the Philippines' decision to withdraw its troops earlier than their scheduled 20 August departure. They said it would encourage more terrorist acts. A US official said yesterday that Washington was re-evaluating ties with the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Iraq's interim government is to allow the newspaper of the radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to reopen, lifting a US-imposed ban that helped trigger an uprising. Iraq's former US administrator, Paul Bremer, closed the weekly newspaper in March, accusing it of inciting anti-American violence in the country.