BAGHDAD -- Kidnappers extended a deadline yesterday for the threatened killing of four captive peace activists and posted a video of two of the hostages wearing robes and shackled with chains.
The original deadline set by the group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness was today. Al Jazeera television said it was extended until Saturday.
Norman Kember, 74, of London, Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va., and the Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, were taken hostage in Baghdad two weeks ago. They were working for the Christian Peacemaker Teams, an antiwar group.
The four Christian peace activists are among seven Westerners who have been abducted in Iraq since Nov. 26. Others include another American, a German, and a Frenchman.
The second American was shown on a separate insurgent video broadcast on Al Jazeera. Yesterday, his brother in the United States identified the captive as Ronald Schulz, 40, an industrial electrician from Alaska.
The brief videotape of the Christian peacekeepers transmitted yesterday by Al Jazeera did not show faces of the two robed and shackled figures. However, still photos showed the two were Fox and Kember. The two other hostages were not shown.
The photos were provided by IntelCenter, a company based in Alexandria, Va., which describes itself as a contractor for the intelligence community, military, and law enforcement.
Fox and Kember were blindfolded, and the stills appeared to have been made from a more complete version of the video that Al Jazeera aired. Unlike the civilian clothing they were wearing in two earlier videos, this time the hostages were wearing orange jumpsuits.
In the tape, the two captives made statements condemning the US and British presence in Iraq. Both men were instructed to give their statements twice, which they did without reading a text because they were blindfolded, according to IntelCenter. As a result, each man's second statement was slightly different from his first.
''I'd like to offer my plea to the people of America, not the government of America, a plea for my release from captivity and also a plea for a release from captivity of all the people of Iraq who are also suffering the same fate," Fox said in the transcript, provided by IntelCenter. ''And that is the occupation of the American troops and the British troops which has brought me to this condition and has brought the Iraqi people to the condition they're in."
In his statement, Kember appealed to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.
''I ask Mr. Blair, the British government, and the British people to work both for my release and for the release of the Iraqi people from oppression."
A senior Iraqi official said yesterday that ''intelligence and security efforts" were under way to win the release of the Western hostages,
Major General Hussein Ali Kamal, deputy interior minister for intelligence, said efforts were ''aiming and hoping for the release of those people who came to Iraq to provide humanitarian services."
''We have a hope that the matter will take a peaceful direction," he said. ''There are intelligence and security efforts in this direction. Because of the sensitivity of the matter, I can't give any other details."
Religious and political leaders abroad -- including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder -- called for the hostages' release.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said his government would not meet the kidnappers' demands.
''It's a desperate situation for Mr. Kember and the fellow hostages and their families. We've had no contact [with the kidnappers] but we are obviously aware of their so-called demands. These are demands which . . . no government could meet," Straw said. ''If hostage takers have anything . . . to say to the UK government or other governments, we're always ready to listen."
Jackson, who has been involved in negotiating freedom for hostages in Iraq, Syria, and Cuba, told CNN yesterday that he was appealing for the peace activists' release.
''Those four men are not soldiers. They're not spies. They do not have guns," Jackson said. ''They should not be used as trophies and killed in the process."
Jackson said he has not had any response to his efforts to make contact with the kidnappers.
''We are working through religious channels, and we hope that those channels will have an effect," he said.
Also yesterday, more than a dozen gunmen staged a brazen dawn raid on a hospital in the volatile northern oil city of Kirkuk, killing several police officers and freeing an injured insurgent being held there, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The attack on the Jomhouriya hospital in downtown Kirkuk, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, began around 5 a.m. and involved gunmen who arrived in three vehicles, said Salem Jalal, head of hospital security.
''The hospital came under strong attack from 20 armed men. They were wearing police uniforms and holding police badges. The operation was well planned," Jalal said.
Several of the attackers infiltrated the hospital and killed the police officers guarding Youssef Ali, who was recovering from injuries suffered about a week ago while planting a roadside bomb, police said.
Ali's father, Mohammed Ali, was one of several men arrested in Kirkuk in late November for allegedly plotting to kill one of the judges involved in the ongoing trial of former president Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants, police said. Both father and son are part of the same Ba'athist militant group, the 1920 Revolution Brigade, said Kirkuk police.
The attackers apparently split into several groups, with one group infiltrating the hospital and catching by surprise the officers guarding Youssef Ali's room.
''It was like an American movie," said a hospital doctor, asking that his name not be published out of fear for his safety. ''Armed men wearing police uniforms killed two of the guards . . . with shots in the back of the head while they were sleeping."
A pitched gun battle ensued as the gunmen were removing Ali from the hospital, with the insurgents apparently overwhelming the police officers. A third police officer was killed and seven wounded in the fight before the insurgents escaped with their colleague.
''They used heavy machine-gun fire," said Jalal, the hospital security director. ''They broke the handcuffs of the terrorist. We found them later on the ground."