The statement - in English, Arabic, and Kurdish - said: "In trying to secure the safety of our employee Ayat Allah Gezman, whom we believe to have been kidnapped, and in accordance with a decision previously made, we are declaring that we pulled all our staff from Iraq as of 15 August".

According to Zafer Ergun, Bilintur's overseas coordinator, a purported Iraqi group has threatened to execute Gezman by Wednesday morning.

He explained the services company withdrew its 130-strong staff from Iraq, a decision he fears the captors may not yet be aware of.

"We pulled everyone out - we have no one in Iraq now - as of 15 August, but we could not make a statement at the time. I stress we have no more staff in Iraq, but we think the Iraqi group has not heard of our pullout," Ergun told Aljazeera.net in an exclusive telephone interview on Tuesday evening.

One killed

The 23-year-old Turkish national worked as a receptionist for a laundry services operation at one of the US military bases near Baghdad, Ergun said.

"Two of our staff were taken on 27 June - one was [executed] on 1 August and we have just received word that Ayat Allah will be killed within 24 hours, by tomorrow morning."

The identity of the group remains unconfirmed.

Ergun said Bilintur had no idea where Gezman was being held or how to get in touch with his captors.

"They have been calling directly to the family home and speaking to Ayat Allah's brother who is then relaying the information and their demands to us."

No result

Asked whether the Turkish government was working to ensure Gezman's release, Ergun said all efforts had produced no result.

"The Turkish government is working in liaison with the Iraqi government but neither of them have been able to do anything - no results," he said.

Ergun explained he was speaking to the media to get a message through to the captors that their demands had been met.

"Ayat Allah's family... they are praying and awaiting good news from Iraq," he said.