In a statement released on Wednesday, the AMS called on captors "to mark the Eid al-Adha and alleviate the suffering caused to many Iraqis and other people by heinous kidnappings".

The organisation also called for "an end to the suffering of Iraqis and others, who should be treated in conformity with our religion's message of forgiveness, justice and compassion".

Shaikh Umar Raghid Zaydan, a spokesman for the religious body, said the statement had not been specifically prompted by the capture of eight Chinese revealed in a tape broadcast by news networks on Tuesday.

Resistance not terrorism

"This initiative is aimed at proving the good intentions of the Iraqi people and proving that it is not a terrorist people and that Iraqi resistance is not terrorist but that it defends the country against the occupiers," he said.

"This initiative is aimed at proving the good intentions of the Iraqi people and proving that it is not a terrorist people and that Iraqi resistance is not terrorist but that it defends the country against the occupiers"

Shaikh Umar Raghid Zaydan, AMS spokesman

"While the committee wants an end to such acts, it also wants the suppression of their root cause, which is the occupation," Zaydan said.

The AMS has opposed the 30 January elections, arguing that such a vote should only be held once foreign troops have left Iraqi soil.

In a tape broadcast on Tuesday on news networks and showing the eight Chinese holding up their passports and guarded by two hooded men, the kidnappers charged the group had "worked with US forces in Iraq".

One of the armed captors could be heard threatening to execute the men unless Beijing "clarifies its role" in Iraq within 48 hours.