'Executed hostage' an Assyrian Businessman

5/23/2005 5:41:05 PM

THE US military has denied any of its servicemen are missing after the claimed execution of a US pilot in Iraq.

It now appears the victim of an apparent hostage-taking and killing was an Iraqi-American businessman.

Militants led by al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed today to have executed the man four days after he was seized in Baghdad.

"Your brothers in Al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers got their hands on a US pilot who turned out to have bombarded several mosques and the Sheraton hotel in Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq, as well as several civilian homes," the group said in an internet statement.

The statement was accompanied by pictures of an Illinois driving licence identifying the purported victim as Neenus Y. Khoshaba, a US national born on November 27 1948.

The statement said that "after questioning this infidel, the divine verdict was applied to him".

Although the statement identified the hostage as a pilot, the US military has now denied that any of its servicemen had gone missing.

A high-ranking official with Iraq's Assyrian Democratic party identified Mr Khoshaba as a US-Iraqi businessman from an Assyrian family who was kidnapped last week.

"I can't confirm his death, but I can identify the hostage," the official said.

"Mr Khoshaba was a US-Iraqi businessman based in Chicago who moved back to Iraq after the war in 2003.

"He was apparently tricked by a group of people posing as representatives from the oil ministry, who told him that they were looking for someone with a dual nationality and had business opportunities to offer him.

"There had been no word from him since," he said.

Mr Khoshaba lived near Baghdad Jadida, in eastern Baghdad.

The group led by Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted man, has claimed a string of devastating attacks as well as kidnappings since the fall of Saddam Hussein.