"We give the Italian government 48 hours to announce a withdrawal from Iraq, and that is the condition for disclosing the fate of the Italian journalist called Giuliana Sgrena," said the Organisation for Jihad in a statement posted on the internet on Thursday.

  

"The mujahidin are now addressing a new message to the Italian government to say that keeping Italian forces in the Land of the Two Rivers (Iraq) will lead to a bloody war," it said in the statement.

  

"And the criminal [Italian Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi and his government will not be happy as long as a single Italian soldier remains in the Land of the Two Rivers," it said.

 

Authenticity

  

The authenticity of the statement could not be confirmed. 

 

"The criminal [Italian Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi and his government will not be happy as long as a single Italian soldier remains in the Land of the Two Rivers"

Purported captors' statement

Sgrena was abducted on 3 February after visiting a Baghdad mosque where refugees have been encamped since a devastating US-led assault on the city of Falluja in November.

  

Contradictory statements by the Organisation for Jihad posted on various Islamist websites have claimed her abduction.

  

They then threatened to kill her unless Rome announced an immediate pullout, before pledging to free her after it was established that Sgrena was not a spy for the United States.

  

A statement from a separate Islamic group announced that the reporter had been murdered, but the Italian government, which normally abstains from any comment, dismissed that claim as unreliable.

 

More details of Sgrena's situation can be found at http://www.ilmanifesto.it/.