Germany and others paid ransoms in Iraq

22nd May 2006, Comments 0 comments

22 May 2006, LONDON - Germany, France and Italy - but not Britain - have paid ransoms totalling 45 million dollars for the freedom of nine hostages abducted in Iraq, The Times of London claimed Monday.

22 May 2006

LONDON - Germany, France and Italy - but not Britain - have paid ransoms totalling 45 million dollars for the freedom of nine hostages abducted in Iraq, The Times of London claimed Monday.

The claims were immediately rejected by the three governments listed by The Times as having "bought" the release of hostages over the past two years.

The French government, countering the claim that it handed over a total of 25 million pounds for three hostages - said it had never paid a ransom.

The government in Berlin said it would not comment on such "speculation."

In Rome, the Foreign Ministry denied The Times' claim that the former government of Silvio Berlusconi paid 11 million dollars for the release of three hostages.

"I can only confirm what has repeatedly been said by the then foreign minister and other members of the government: Italy did not pay any ransom", foreign ministry spokesman Pasquale Terracciano said.

Officially, all Western governments deny payments in return for the release of hostages in Iraq.

The Times said it had seen documents, held by security officials in Baghdad involved in hostage negotiations, which showed that sums ranging from 2.5 million to 10 million dollars per person were paid over the past 21 months.

Among those said to have received cash ransoms was the gang responsible for seizing British hostages including Kenneth Bigley, the murdered Liverpool engineer in 2004, the Times said.

But the British government refused to pay a ransom in the case of Bigley, and another British hostage, aid worker Margaret Hassan, who was murdered by her abductors in the same year.

The paper claimed that Hassan, who had taken Iraqi citizenship, was killed soon after British Prime Minister Tony Blair ruled out a ransom payment in a television broadcast seen on an Arab satellite channel.

However, according to The Times, the Italian government paid a ransom of 6 million dollars for journalist Giuliana Sgrena, and another 5 million dollars for two aid workers abducted in 2004.

The German government, The Times alleged, paid 3 million dollars for the release of aid worker Susanne Osthoff, and a reported 5 million dollars for two German engineers - all freed during the last six months.

The French government is alleged to have paid 10 million dollars for female hostage Florence Aubenas, in 2005, and 15 million dollars for journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot at the end of 2004.

The Times said a number of other governments, including those of Tureky, Romania, Sweden and Jordan, also paid for hostages to be freed.

The list of payments has also been seen by Western diplomats, who are angered at the behaviour of the three governments, arguing that it encourages organized crime gangs to grab more foreign captives, the paper added.

"In theory we stand together in not rewarding kidnappers, but in practice it seems some administrations have parted with cash and so it puts other foreign nationals at risk from gangs who are confident that some governments do pay", The Times quoted a "senior envoy" in Baghdad as saying.

More than 250 foreigners have been abducted since the US-led invasion in 2003. At least 44 have been killed; 135 were released, three escaped, six were rescued and the fate of the others remains unknown.


Subject: German news

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