Kidnapped Germans in Iraq plea for help from Berlin

27th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

27 January 2006, CAIRO - Two German engineers kidnapped in Iraq were shown in a video on Friday, three days after their abduction, appealing to the government in Berlin to do everything possible to secure their release.

27 January 2006

CAIRO - Two German engineers kidnapped in Iraq were shown in a video on Friday, three days after their abduction, appealing to the government in Berlin to do everything possible to secure their release.

In the video, aired by the pan-Arab channel Aljazeera, the two men could be seen squatting on the ground, with gunmen standing to their left and right. The two hostages, Rene Braeunlich and Thomas Nitzschke, appeared to be in good health.

They spoke in German, giving their names and appealing for German government action to obtain their release. The video was evidently made on Tuesday, directly after the abduction.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they were "shocking images which upset me and the country."

She said the family, fellow workers and friends of the hostages should know: "You are not alone."

The chancellor said their lives had the top priority. "We won't falter in our efforts to bring them safely home," she said.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said his diplomats would do "everything humanly possible" to win the hostages' release, but would also "proceed with a sense of proportion."

He called again for the men's immediate release saying, "We utterly condemn this act."

The pair of engineers were kidnapped on Tuesday morning in the northern city of Bayji, some 200 kilometres north-west of Baghdad. A third German managed to escape, Iraqi police said.

A group calling itself Kataib Ansar al-Tawhid wal-Sunna (the Brigades of the Supporters of Monotheism and the way of the Prophet Mohammed), has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

An influential Sunni leader in Baghdad joined appeals Friday for the freedom of the two men.

"They are innocent and have been working in the service of the Iraqi people," said Saleh al-Mutlak, chairman of the Dialogue Front.

In the video, which was apparently made on the day of the abduction, the kidnappers made no demands.

The missing men are employees of a small Leipzig company, Cryotec GmbH, and had been sent to Iraq last week to help install machinery at a detergent-making plant.

The proprietor, Peter Bienert, rejected charges by a German state minister for foreign affairs, Gernot Erler, that he had been careless to send them to Iraq.

A statement Friday by Cryotec said, "The management and staff dissociate themselves utterly from the remarks by the state minister that the firm behaved irresponsibly."

"Those are tendentious words without knowledge of the facts," Bienert told a newspaper, the Leipziger Volkszeitung, in remarks published Friday. He said the itinerary and local circumstances had all been studied before the trip. Nowhere in Iraq was completely safe.

A German freelance archaeologist kidnapped in Iraq last month, Susanne Osthoff, was later released amid unconfirmed reports that a ransom was paid.

Friends of the kidnapped men expressed relief that a message had come in after three days of waiting.

"It's nice to at least have that," said Michael Herrn, who coaches an amateur team in which Braeunlich, 31, is a keen footballer. Members of the SV Gruen-Weiss Miltitz club have been quick to help the hostages' families.

DPA

Subject: German news

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