Nepal confirmed on Monday that 13 of its citizens had been kidnapped by an Islamic group in Iraq and appealed for their release.
Nepal has banned its nationals from travelling or working in Iraq, but many people from the poverty-stricken Himalayan nation go to Iraq from other countries in the Middle East to find work.
“Thirteen Nepalis were kidnapped while they were trying to get into a car after passing through immigration in Iraq,” the Nepali foreign ministry said.
“They were working in Jordan and were sent by a Jordanian company to Iraq.”
Deputy Prime Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary appealed to the captors to release them.
“Nepal is not involved in war in Iraq. They were very innocent people who had gone there to work. We appeal for their release on humanitarian grounds,” Adhikary told Reuters.
An Islamic militant group posted pictures on its Web site on Sunday of 12 Nepalis it said it was holding hostage in Iraq.
Army of Ansar al-Sunna’s site showed individual pictures of the 12 men holding up their passports in front of a black banner carrying the group’s name. It also showed a picture of the hostages together.
In the photograph showing the hostages together, one man was holding a U.S. flag in front of his chest.
The group said on Friday it abducted the Nepalis on Thursday and Friday because of their cooperation with U.S. forces in Iraq.
Ansar al-Sunna has claimed many attacks since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last year but no official link has been made between the group and the attacks it has claimed.
Militants in Iraq have waged a campaign of kidnapping aimed at driving out individuals, companies and troops supporting U.S. forces and the new Iraqi interim administration.
Scores of hostages have been taken. Some have been released but at least nine have been killed.