BAGHDAD -- The FBI has joined the investigation of a series of kidnappings that have targeted dozens of foreigners in Iraq in the past 10 days, a coalition spokesman said yesterday.
The most recent reported abductions were of four Italian security guards working for a US-based company and a French TV journalist.
The wave of kidnappings has left at least 22 foreigners held hostage, including Thomas Hamill, a 43-year-old truck driver from Macon, Miss., and three Japanese whose captors threatened to burn them alive if Tokyo didn't withdraw its troops.
Coalition spokesman Dan Senor yesterday put the figure at 40 people being held from a dozen countries. He said the coalition would not negotiate with ''terrorists or kidnappers," and refused comment on efforts to free the captives.
The four Italians were reported missing yesterday, and an Arab satellite TV broadcaster said they had been kidnapped.
The Italian Foreign Ministry said its civilians worked for US-based DTS LLC Security and were reported missing Monday. The Italian news agency AGI and other reports said they were seized in Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad.
Al-Jazeera broadcast a video showing four Italians sitting on the floor holding passports. Behind them were men with machine guns.
Kidnappers demanded the Italian government apologize for insulting Islam and Muslims, Al-Jazeera said, and that Italy, which has 3,000 troops in Iraq, withdraw its forces.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi ruled out a troop withdrawal, saying, ''The peace mission of the Italian soldiers in Iraq, in line with the international commitments that have been taken on, is absolutely not in question."
Italy has been a strong supporter of the war in Iraq. It did not send combat troops, but a contingent based in the southern town of Nasiriyah is helping with reconstruction.
The French government demanded the immediate release of Alexandre Jordanov, a journalist for Capa Television in Paris, who was seized Sunday as he was videotaping an attack on an American military convoy.
Franck Duprat, an editor who worked with Jordanov on an investigative television show called ''The Real News," said he disappeared on the road south of Baghdad.
Three Czech journalists feared kidnapped Sunday are fine and could be released as early as today, Iraqi Minister of Culture Mofeed al-Jazaeri told Czech television.
The three reporters, last heard from Sunday, are believed to have been kidnapped while headed toward Jordan. They were identified as Czech Television reporter Michal Kubal and cameraman Petr Klima, and Czech Radio reporter Vit Pohanka.
Hamill and six other civilian employees of a subsidiary of the
Russia urged its citizens to leave Iraq and began moving yesterday to evacuate civilian contractors after masked gunmen briefly kidnapped eight employees of a Russian energy company involved in rebuilding the country's electric infrastructure.
The eight captives, including three Russians and five Ukrainians, were released unharmed yesterday, apparently because their abductors realized their employer was from a country that opposed the US-led invasion last year, according to the head of the company, Interenergoservis.