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Posted: 9/15/2004 4:10:08 AM EDT
So the terrorists who say they took 2 are prob full of shit

No Australians unaccounted for in Iraq
21:33 AEST Wed Sep 15 2004

All Australians known to be in Iraq have been accounted for as Prime Minister John Howard said he was cautiously hopeful that a claim terrorists had taken two Australians hostage was a hoax.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials have contacted all 225 Australians known to be in Iraq in the two days since an Islamic terrorist group said it had seized two Australian and two Asian security contractors near the Iraqi town of Samarra.

The Horror Brigades of the Islamic Secret Army said it would execute the hostages unless Australia withdrew forces from Iraq within 24 hours.

That deadline passed late Tuesday (AEST), and officials have been unable to find any evidence that two Australians were being held.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said DFAT had revised down the number of Australians known to be in Iraq from 229 after a re-examination of names and eliminating some double-counting.

"We have now accounted for all of them and we know they are OK and haven't been kidnapped," the spokesman said.

"That's obviously good news.

"But it doesn't mean that we are not still searching and inquiring about other Australians who might still be in Iraq."

Australia has sent a 15-member team of Defence and federal police officers to Iraq to help rescue any hostages.

But Mr Howard said that as each day passed without any proof, it began to look more like a hoax.

"I suppose, as each hour goes by, you grow cautiously more hopeful but I don't think we should think that it still may not be true," Mr Howard said.

"I hope, as each day goes by, we can feel more confident that things are better - I do hope that."

The group has not issued any further statements since the threat was made public in a leaflet on Monday night (AEST).

No video footage, photographs or names have been released, raising hopes the hostage claim could be a hoax.

Mr Downer said it was unusual for hostage takers to do a leaflet drop rather than publish information on a website or send a videotape to a television station.

He defended his department's inability to pin down the exact number of workers in Iraq, saying some people wanted to be registered with the embassy, while others did not and could not be forced to do so.

"I don't think we could accuse anyone of failure here," Mr Downer said.

The government's decision to send in the logistical support team without first consulting Labor angered Opposition Leader Mark Latham, who accused the government of breaching the caretaker conventions of an election campaign.

Mr Latham said it was an outrageous breach of the convention on the biggest national security decision the government had taken all year.

But Mr Howard said the team had been set up under a contingency plan agreed on by cabinet's national security committee last month, before he called the election.

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