|Baghdad, AFP -- A previously unknown Islamist group claimed to have kidnapped two Indonesian television journalists who went missing in Iraq (news - web sites) this week while driving on a notoriously dangerous road from Amman to Baghdad.
The group, calling itself Jaish al-Mujahedeen (Army of Warriors), demanded that the ''Indonesian government explain what mission had brought the two journalists'' to Iraq, according to a report by Arabic television Al-Jazeera.
The group ''adds ... that it will not be responsible for the security of the two hostages if the Indonesian government does not respond to their request.''
In Jakarta, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said two Indonesian journalists were being held hostage in Iraq.
''I have just received a reconfirmation that indeed the two Indonesian nationals have been taken hostage in a place in Iraq,'' Yudhoyono told reporters.
''I, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of the Republic of Indonesia, convey that the two journalists are truly only carrying out their journalistic duties,'' the president said.
''There is no political involvement. There is no involvement by the two in the conflict (in Iraq),'' he said.
In Paris, the media watchdog body Reporters Without Borders (RSF) identified the pair as Meutya Hafid, a female reporter for Metro TV, and Metro cameraman Budiyanto.
Al-Jazeera showed a silent video picturing a man and a woman holding their passports up to the camera, reporting that the passports bore the words ''Republik Indonesia.''
Budiyanto, born in 1969, according to his passport, and Meutya Viada Hafid, born in 1978, were shown with weapons pointed at them. Each wore a smock, black in the case of the man, gray in the case of the woman.
The words 'Metro TV' also appeared on the screen.
A security source at the Indonesian embassy in Baghdad said earlier that ''the two journalists, who work for an Indonesian television station, were coming to Baghdad by road and disappeared in the region of Ramadi.''
Ramadi is an infamous Sunni Muslim rebel hotspot 100 kilometres (about 60 miles) west of Baghdad.
The Indonesian foreign ministry in Jakarta said the two missing journalists were in a rented car in Ramadi on Tuesday when they were last heard of.
Spokesman Marty Natalegawa told reporters: ''We've lost contact with them and we are trying to ascertain their whereabouts and conditions at the moment through our staff in Amman.''
The two journalists did not tell the embassy in Baghdad that they were coming, otherwise ''I would have told them to take the plane and not to come by road,'' said the Baghdad embassy source.
The RSF statement said the organisation was ''extremely worried by the fresh outbreak of journalists disappearing in Iraq.''
Earlier this month, Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena, who works for the leftist Il Manifesto daily, was seized after visiting a Baghdad mosque where refugees have been encamped since the devastating US-led assault on the city of Fallujah in November.
On Wednesday, she was shown in tears pleading for her life and for the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq, in a video broadcast.
Florence Aubenas, a senior correspondent for France's left-leaning newspaper Liberation and her Iraqi translator, Hussein Hanun al-Saadi, left their Baghdad hotel on January 5 and have not been heard from since.
On February 9, Abdel Hussein Khazaal, a correspondent with the US-funded Arab television station Alhurra, was gunned down with his four-year-old son in the city of Basra.
In September two Indonesian women were kidnapped while travelling to Iraq from Jordan by the militant Islamic Army in Iraq, which has abducted a number of journalists in the country.
They were released after then Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri made an appeal for the release broadcast on the Arabic satellite television station Al-Jazeera.
The hostage-takers had demanded that Indonesia free radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who was then awaiting trial for allegedly leading the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group and blamed for several deadly bombings.
Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, was a vocal opponent of the US-led invasion of Iraq of March 2003.
In August, a 27-year-old Indonesian engineer working for a British contractor, Fahmi Ahmad, became the first Indonesian killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. ©