BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Debate raged on Islamic Web sites about the propriety of killing fellow Muslims who work for coalition forces in Iraq, after militants released three Turkish hostages they had threatened to behead.
The Tawhid and Jihad movement of terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi announced Saturday it would kill the three Turks within 72 hours unless Turkish companies stopped doing business with American forces in Iraq.
On Tuesday, however, the movement released them “for the sake of Muslim brothers and mujahedeen in Turkey,” according to a statement broadcast on Al-Jazeera television.
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That contrasted starkly to the treatment of several non-Muslims recently. Al-Zarqawi’s movement claimed responsibility for the beheading of Kim Sun-il, a South Korean who worked for a company delivering supplies to American forces, and Nicholas Berg, an American businessman. Al-Qaida-linked militants in Saudi Arabia decapitated American engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr. and posted pictures of his severed head on the Internet.
Most people who post messages on several Islamic Web sites known for their extremist bent believe those are justified. But the issue of whether it is proper kill Muslims taken captive because of their links to the U.S. military has been a hot topic.
Opinions are mixed. Some people appealed on the kidnappers to spare the Turks because they were “fellow Muslims.” Others urged militants to decapitate them.
“Turkish Muslims should be the first to demand that those hypocrites be beheaded, as they are allied with the devil,” meaning the Americans, one person wrote on a Web site that has published al-Zarqawi statements and claims of responsibility for other killings. “They should serve as an example to every apostate.”
Another contributor who identified himself as “enemy of the foreign infidels” said he supported the decapitation of hostages — but not Muslim ones.
“Slaughtering is something you started with the infidel Crusaders and their allies, and we hope you won’t deviate from that path,” he wrote. But “they’re Muslims, so don’t kill them … as long as they didn’t cause direct harm.”
Yet another writer suggested that if Muslims must be killed, their deaths shouldn’t be filmed. Muslims should be spared from decapitation, the writer said, because “beheadings should only be for the Crusader invaders as a lesson for them that we don’t bow our heads.”
The practice of publicizing such killings appears aimed at increasing the shock value of the militant campaign against Westerners, especially Americans. Islamic scholars and newspaper commentators throughout the region have condemned the practice, although the Web postings suggest that at least some Muslims believe the tactic is justified.
Among those believed held hostage and facing possible death are U.S. Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, a Muslim of Lebanese origin, and Amjad Hafeez, a Pakistani driver. On Tuesday, al-Jazeera reported that militants killed Spc. Keith M. Maupin, 20, with a single bullet to the head. Maupin, of Batavia, Ohio, had been held since April.
“There is a lot of confusion concerning this beheading issue, and more so in the case of beheadings of Muslims,” said Dia’a Rashwan, a Cairo expert on Islamic militants.
Rashwan, whose book the “Electronic War” is to be published soon, said militants use car bombs, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades in their real war against Westerners, “but resort to swords and knives in the symbolic media war they’re waging on the Internet.”