The latest violence in Iraq is thought to have claimed the lives of two Germans, the foreign ministry said. The wherabouts of Chinese and Japanese hostages remain unknown.
The two Germans are thought to have been killed
Tobias Ritrath, 25, and Thomas Haffenker, 38, went missing during a routine exchange of security personnel last Wednesday. Iraqi insurgents are believed to have attacked the security convoy carrying the men, who are part of the elite GSG-9 unit that protects the German embassy in Baghdad, as it traveled through Iraq on its way from Amman, Jordan, to the capital.
The convoy was traveling on a highway that skirts the cities of Falluja and Ramadi, flashpoints in the recent uprising against foreign troops. The car carrying the men was surrounded, but the others managed to escape and complete their trip to Baghdad.
Brit: I saw their bodies
Germany's foreign ministry said on Sunday it was "highly likely" that the men were dead. ARD reported that a grave had been found, where the two men were thought to be buried. Officials at the German embassy in Baghdad had reportedly seen video footage of the corpses and recognized the two men, according to ARD. A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry refused to comment on the information.
A reporter for the British Daily Telegraph said he had seen the bodies of two Germans who had been killed in the area. Another witness told Agence France Presse that the Toyota Landcruiser the men were believed to be traveling in had been struck by a rocket.
More foreigners abducted
Meanwhile, the number of foreigners kidnapped in the region rose on Sunday. The Chinese foreign ministry confirmed Monday that seven of its nationals had been abducted. The men, aged between 18 and 49, were kidnapped west of Baghdad after arriving in Iraq by car from Jordan on Sunday morning.
It was unclear Monday what had happened to three Japanese hostages being held by insurgents. Their release was expected Sunday, and they had been reported to be in safety. But a Japanese government spokesman said on Monday that the reports remained unconfirmed. The captors had said they would kill the three if Tokyo didn't remove its troops from Iraq.
Released British hostage Gary Teeley speaks to British service personnel on Monday in Shaibah, Iraq on his first full day of freedom after being held hostage by Iraqi militia.
A British man was released Sunday from his kidnappers, the British foreign office announced. Gary Teeley, 37, (photo) was safely in the care of coalition troops, the ministry said. No details of his release were given. Teeley had been abducted by an Iraqi militia on April 5 in Nassiriya. He had been working for a company from Qatar at the U.S. base in the southern Iraqi city.
Another group of Iraqi rebels announced on a video tape broadcast by Al Jazeera that it would release eight foreign men -- three Pakistanis, two Turks, an Indian, a Nepali and a Filipino.
Attacks worry Germans in Iraq
If the reports of the German security agents' deaths are confirmed, they won't be the first German nationals to be killed in Iraq. In mid-March, an employee of a Bremen-based firm contracted with rebuilding water supply lines in Iraq was shot and killed along with a Dutch colleague and their Iraqi companion.
Currently, an estimated 50 Germans are permanently stationed in Iraq -- employees of firms with reconstruction contracts, journalists, diplomats and representatives of German relief organizations. Among them is Alexander Christoph, who heads the German organization Architects for People in Need.
"The only way I can explain what's happened here, if it turns out they were actually German, is that the (attackers) were confused, because most of the kidnappings up till now have always involved members of the coalition troops," Christoph told ARD in a telephone interview from Baghdad.
Germany and China both opposed the war in Iraq and have not provided troops to coalition forces.
Speaking of the consequences the disappearances could have for other German workers is in the country, Christoph said it was still too early to tell."I can't really judge that right now," he said. "Our emergency assistance and medical programs are still operating right now, but we're not starting any new projects. We're going to wait and see what develops. We haven't ruled out the possibility that the situation could get much worse than it already is."