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Video shows 8 Chinese held in Iraq

Iraqi police officers secure the scene after a suicide car bomber killed a guard in Baghdad on Tuesday.
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MOSUL, Iraq (CNN) -- A video of eight Chinese construction workers taken hostage in Iraq surfaced Tuesday, just as the Vatican confirmed a Catholic archbishop had been released a day after he was kidnapped in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

The video shows the men holding opened passports as an Arabic speaker demanded that the Chinese government declare it would not allow its citizens to work for Americans in Iraq.

"We have taken these individuals hostage as they were trying to leave Iraq," the voice said in Arabic. "After interrogating them, we learned that they are Chinese working for a Chinese contracting company in Iraq. This company is carrying out the task of rebuilding one of the American bases."

The video shows the men in front of a wall, with four standing and four kneeling. Hooded guards stood on each side.

The voice, claiming to be a representative of The Islamic Resistance Movement, called on the Chinese government to issue a statement saying they would not allow their citizens to help "their enemy, the Americans."

The terrorist group, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has released previous videos showing foreign workers pleading for their government's help.

In Tuesday's video, the camera zoomed in for a close look at each passport, which indicated three of the hostages were teenagers -- 17, 18 and 19 years old.

An official at China's embassy in Baghdad said her government "presumes" the men are Chinese but could not immediately confirm it. The state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted sources in China's embassy confirming the men were from China's southern province of Fujian who were in Iraq to help rebuild an Iraqi plant.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Vatican in Rome said Basil George Casmoussa was safely released and no ransom was paid.

There were reports that the kidnappers used Casmoussa's cell phone to demand a $200,000 ransom for the 66-year-old archbishop.

Monsignor Tomas Hadid, a spokesman for the Vatican Embassy in Baghdad, said he had spoken to Casmoussa after he was released and said he's "grateful to God" for the archbishop's release.

Casmoussa is a member of the Chaldean Church, part of a group of independent but related Eastern Catholic Churches that accept the pope as their head. While the group accepts the doctrine and celebrates the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church, it uses its own liturgy and customs.

Casmoussa was outside a private residence on a main road in al-Muhendisin, in Mosul, when he was abducted Monday, said Kahsro Goran, deputy governor of Nineveh province.

Christians are a minority in Iraq, which is 97 percent Muslim. But thousands of Christians live in the Mosul area.

There have been several recent attacks on Christian targets in Iraq, including the bombings of several churches.

Guard killed thwarting suicide car bomber

A car bomb exploded Tuesday outside a Baghdad office of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), killing a guard who tried to stop the vehicle, Iraqi police and a spokesman for SCIRI said.

SCIRI spokesman Haytham al-Hussein said the driver of the vehicle tried to drive through the main barricade, but a guard fired at the car, forcing the suicide bomber to detonate away from the gate of the Shiite group's office.

Police said the guard was killed and seven others were injured in the blast at the information office of Iraq's largest political party. The suicide bomber also died, officials said.

On December 27, a suicide bomber blew up a car outside SCIRI's headquarters in the same neighborhood in Baghdad as Tuesday's attack, killing six people and wounding 33.

Attacks on political targets have intensified ahead of the country's scheduled January 30 elections, in which Iraqis will elect a transitional national assembly.

Iraq will close its borders January 29-31 for the election, Dr. Fareed Ayar of the Iraq Independent Electoral Commission said Tuesday. The country is already under a state of emergency.

The state of emergency essentially puts the country under martial law, and allows interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to restrict freedom of movement, impose curfews and take security and military measures he deems necessary.

Other developments

  • At least 13 Iraqi national guard troops died in a battle with insurgents in the Iraqi city of Kut on Monday, according to a police spokesman in Kut. Another six Iraqi soldiers and nine Iraqi police officers were wounded. Kut is about 80 miles southeast of Baghdad.
  • On Monday, insurgents killed at least 14 members of Iraqi security forces and one civilian in attacks on checkpoints in two cities. Near Baquba, north of Baghdad, insurgents traveling in multiple vehicles killed seven Iraqi army soldiers and one civilian at a checkpoint, Iraqi and U.S. military officials said. At least seven Iraqi police were killed when a suicide car bomb exploded at the first of three checkpoints in front of an Iraqi police headquarters near the north-central city of Tikrit, a U.S. military spokesman and a local official said.
  • Three U.S. soldiers were killed Monday "while conducting security and stability operations in the Al Anbar Province," statements from the Combined Press Information Center said. All three were assigned to the Ist Marine Expeditionary Force, the statements said. Monday's deaths bring to 1,369 the number of American troops killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
  • CNN's Nermeen al-Mufti, Arwa Damon and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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