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Sunday Telegraph journalist kidnapped by Iraqi militants

LONDON – Sunday Telegraph journalist James Brandon has been captured by militants in the British-held city of Basra in southern Iraq.

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According to a report on Sky News, Brandon's captors have threatened to kill him after bursting into his hotel, shooting at him and taking him hostage.

Sky has broadcast a video, released in Basra, that shows masked gunmen and a bare-chested hostage. The captive has a bandage around his head and identifies himself as Brandon

"I'm a journalist; I just write about what is happening in Iraq. James Brandon from the Sunday Telegraph,'' Brandon said.

The militants have said they will kill Brandon if US forces do not pull out of the holy city of Najaf. The US and the Iraqi defence force has been fighting militia loyal to Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for more than a week.

Last night it was reported Al-Sadr had been wounded and had retreated to a mosque in the city.

According to reports, gunmen entered the Hotel Al-Diafa in Basra and demanded the receptionist show them the guest book. They then headed upstairs, where two shots were heard and, minutes later, they were seen dragging out the British journalist.

The kidnap follows the killing of two British soldiers in the city by forces loyal to Al-Sadr.

More than 70 hostages have been taken prisoner in recent months. Several, including citizens from Italy, the US, South Korea and Bulgaria, have lost their lives.

Brandon is aged 23 and works freelance for the Sunday Telegraph.

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