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Published: Monday, 9/20/2004

Web video shows beheading of Hillsdale native

Eugene Anderson Eugene Anderson
AP Enlarge

CAIRO, Egypt A video posted today on a Web site showed the beheading of a man identified as American hostage Eugene Armstrong, a native of Hillsdale, Mich.

This is what we did not want to hear, the Armstrong family said in a statement in Hillsdale.

The militant group led by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the slaying and said another hostage either another American or a Briton held by the group will be killed in 24 hours unless all Muslim women prisoners are released from U.S. military jails.

You, sister, rejoice. God s soldiers are coming to get you out of your chains and restore your purity by returning you to your mother and father, said a militant reading a statement in the video.

In Washington, a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Armstrong s body had been recovered, but the official would provide no information about where or when it had been recovered.

The taped beheading appears to be of Armstrong, but the CIA is still reviewing the tape to be sure, the official said.

The 9-minute tape was posted on a Web site used by Islamic militants after a 48-hour deadline set earlier by the group for the beheading of the three employees of a construction company abducted Thursday in Baghdad Armstrong, American Jack Hensley and Briton Kenneth Bigley.

The tape showed a man seated on the floor, blindfolded and wearing an orange jumpsuit with his hands bound behind his back.

Five militants dressed in black stood behind the man, four of them armed with assault rifles, with a black Tawhid and Jihad banner on the wall behind them. The militant in the center read out a statement, as the hostage rocked back and forth and side to side where he sat.

After finishing the statement, the militant pulled a knife, rushed to the hostage from behind and cut his throat until the head was severed.

The victim gasped loudly as blood poured from his neck. His killer held up the head at one point, and placed the head on top of the body.

The fate of the first infidel was cutting off the head before your eyes and ears. You have a 24-hour opportunity. Abide by our demand in full and release all the Muslim women, otherwise the head of the other will follow this one, the speaker said.

He appeared to indicate the hostages would be killed one at a time and did not specify whether Hensley or Bigley would be next.

The voice of the militant sounded like past recordings attributed to al-Zarqawi, whose Tawhid and Jihad group claimed responsibility for kidnapping Armstrong along with another American and a Briton.

The militants had demanded the release of female Iraqi prisoners detained by the U.S. military. The military says it is holding two women as security detainees in Iraq, including Dr. Rihab Rashid Taha, a scientist who became known as Dr. Germ for helping Iraq make weapons out of anthrax.

The militant on the video called President Bush a dog and addressed him, saying, Now, you have people who love death just like you love life. Killing for the sake of God is their best wish, getting to your soldiers and allies are their happiest moments, and cutting the heads of the criminal infidels is implementing the orders of our lord.

The other American hostage, Jack Hensley, 48, made his home in Marietta, Ga., with his wife Patty and their 13-year-old daughter. Kidnapped with the Americans was Briton Kenneth Bigley, 62. All three worked for Gulf Services Co. of the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, in Hillsdale, Armstrong s family said today that they were praying for the remaining hostages and their families.

In a statement, family spokeswoman Cyndi Armstrong remembered Armstrong, known as Jack, as a good guy who didn t like to stay in one place. He loved to travel.

Armstrong grew up in Hillsdale, but left the area around 1990. His brother, Frank, still lives there. Armstrong s work in construction took him around the world; he lived in Thailand with his wife before going to Iraq.

Read more in tomorrow's editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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