BAGHDAD, Iraq(AP) Iraqi militants claimed in a Web statement Tuesday to have taken an American soldier hostage and threatened to behead him in 72 hours unless the Americans release Iraqi prisoners.
The posting, on a Web site that frequently carried militants’ statements, included a photo of what appeared to be an American soldier in desert fatigues seated with his hands tied behind his back.
A gun barrel was pointed at his head, and he is seated in front of a black banner emblazoned with the Islamic profession of faith, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet.”
A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Marine Sgt. Salju K. Thomas, said he had no information on the claim but “we are currently looking into it.”
A statement posted with the picture suggested the group was holding other soldiers.
“Our mujahadeen heroes of Iraq’s Jihadi Battalion were able to capture American military man John Adam after killing a number of his comrades and capturing the rest,” said the statement, signed by the “Mujahedeen Brigades.”
“God willing, we will behead him if our female and male prisoners are not released from U.S. prisons within the maximum period of 72 hours from the time this statement has been released,” the statement said.
The claim, carried on the Web site ansarnet.ws, could not be verified.
More than 180 foreigners have been kidnapped in the past year. At least 10 of them, including three American civilians, remain in the hands of their kidnappers.
The only American soldier known to have been taken hostage is Pfc. Keith M. Maupin, 20, of Batavia, Ohio, who was shown in a video in April being held by militants. Another video aired in June showed what purported to be Maupin’s slaying, but the picture was too unclear to confirm it was him and the military still lists him as missing.
A photograph posted on an Islamist Web site appears to be that of an action figure and not a U.S. soldier being held hostage.
Liam Cusack, the marketing coordinator for Dragon Models USA, said the figure pictured on the Web site is believed to be “Special Ops Cody,” a military action figure the company manufactured in late 2003.
“It pretty much looks exactly like the same person,” he said.
Cusack said he was contacted Tuesday morning by one of his retailers, who informed him that the alleged hostage appeared to be one of the company’s action figures.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” he said.
But after reading a report on a news Web site about a U.S. soldier allegedly being captured, “I looked at it and said, ‘It does look like one of our action figures.'”
“Cody” is an action figure the company made for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which supplies U.S. military bases worldwide with various items. The doll was meant to look like a U.S. soldier who might be serving in Iraq, Cusack said.
On the Islamist Web site, a group calling itself the Al Mujahedeen Brigade, posted a photograph of a man it claimed was a captured U.S. soldier named John Adam, and it threatened to behead him if Iraqi prisoners are not released by U.S. forces.
Staff Sgt. Nick Minecci of the U.S. military’s press office in Baghdad told The Associated Press that “no units have reported anyone missing.”
The photograph showed the figure against a black flag with white lettering reading, “God is great, there is no god but Allah.” A U.S. military assault rifle was pointed at its head. It appears that “rifle” was part of the plastic weaponry that came with the action figure.
The photograph immediately raised questions.
CNN military analyst James Marks, a retired Army general, questioned its authenticity.
He told CNN in a phone interview that the flak jacket in the picture had a kind of trim along the edges that he’d never seen before, and that the open-legged pants, as opposed to gathered hems, struck him as odd.
He also questioned what appeared to be camouflage paint on the face.
“We have not used camo paint with conventional forces serving in Iraq,” Marks said.