Iraqi group kidnapped two Frenchmen

An Iraqi militant group has kidnapped two Frenchmen and given the French government 48 hours to end a ban on Muslim headscarves, Arabic television station Al Jazeera says. The channel aired a brief video on Saturday showing two men standing in front of a black banner bearing the name of the Islamic Army in Iraq. One man told the camera: "I would like to tell my family that everything is OK". Jazeera identified the men as George Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot. Last week, the French Foreign Ministry said two journalists with those names had gone missing in Iraq. The journalists -- who work for Le Figaro and Radio France International -- were declared missing on the same day that Italy said freelance journalist Enzo Baldoni was also missing and that his driver had been reportedly killed, informs Reuters.

The headscarf ban is due to come into effect in September. Al-Jazeera, quoting unidentified sources, named the militant group as the Islamic Army of Iraq.

The station's newsreader said the group described the French law banning religious apparel in public schools as "an aggression on the Islamic religion and personal freedoms". Signed into law by President Jacques Chirac earlier this year, the law forbids religious apparel and "conspicuous" signs that show a student's religious affiliation.

Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses will also be banned, reports BBC News.

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