Germany appeals on TV for release of hostages

3rd February 2006, Comments 0 comments

3 February 2006, BERLIN - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed publicly Friday to hostage-takers in Iraq to release two German engineers seized a week earlier, and said Berlin had not yet been able to establish direct contact with the abductors.

3 February 2006

BERLIN - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed publicly Friday to hostage-takers in Iraq to release two German engineers seized a week earlier, and said Berlin had not yet been able to establish direct contact with the abductors.

A video message from the kidnappers had threatened Thomas Nitzschke, 28, and Rene Braeunlich, 31, with death by Friday unless Germany closed its embassy in Baghdad and withdrew its companies from Iraq.

The men were working in Iraq for a Leipzig-based company contracted to upgrade a detergents factory in the northern city of Bayji, about 200 kilometres north-west of Baghdad.

Steinmeier taped his appeal for transmission by al-Jazeera, the Arabic news television channel which is widely viewed in Iraq.

The minister told reporters outside a meeting in Berlin with Baltic foreign ministers that Germany had tried but so far not succeeded in communicating directly with the abductors.

The mothers of the two engineers had taped an appeal to the kidnappers Thursday calling on them to show mercy and to release their sons. It was unclear when the kidnappers' 72-hour ultimatum ran out, but the stated deadline was thought to be Friday evening.

The kidnappers were from a group calling itself Kataib Ansar al- Tawhid wa al-Sunna (Brigades of Followers of the Holy Unity and Example of the Prophet), according to a broadcast earlier this week.

Leipzig residents have been staging vigils as part of an effort to secure the release of Braeunlich and Nitzschke, with 500 showing up Thursday evening and another vigil set for Friday evening.

Giuliana Sgrena, an Italian journalist who was taken hostage a year ago, said Friday in southern Germany that the best thing would be for Germany to pay a ransom and get the men free.

"A state has to do whatever it takes to secure the lives of its citizens," she told Deutsche Presse-Agentur in Stuttgart. She added that holding people ransom was an "industry" that was now well established in Iraq.

"To this day I do not know whether any ransom was paid for my own release," she said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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