Ostoff 'had ransom money on her' after release

23rd January 2006, Comments 0 comments

23 January 2006, MUNICH - Susanne Osthoff, 43, the German woman who was freed a month ago from captivity in Iraq, had in her possession ransom money that was earlier paid for her release, a weekly news magazine claimed Saturday.

23 January 2006

MUNICH - Susanne Osthoff, 43, the German woman who was freed a month ago from captivity in Iraq, had in her possession ransom money that was earlier paid for her release, a weekly news magazine claimed Saturday.

The account, to be published on Monday in Focus, said Osthoff, whose account of her ordeal as a hostage has puzzled Germans, could not be reached for comment on the claims. Germany has said previously it does not pay ransoms.

Focus said Osthoff, a freelance archaeologist and aid worker who has converted to Islam and has lived in Iraq for many years, was driven after her release to the German embassy in Baghdad to freshen up.

As she took a shower, embassy staff saw thousands of U.S. dollars in her clothing. The banknotes were held together with elastic bands. German police later checked the serial numbers on the notes and established they were the same as on the ransom money, Focus said.

Osthoff spoke earlier this month of a ransom having been offered to the Iraqi group that held her captive for three weeks, but the German government declined to comment on her account.

The magazine said German diplomats in Baghdad had informed the Foreign Office immediately about the find.

Asked by Deutsche Presse-Agentur to confirm the story Saturday, both the Foreign Office and German federal police declined comment. The journalist who wrote the story, Hubert Gude, told DPA it was based on multiple sources "that are absolutely reliable".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank- Walter Steinmeier have both said Germany was not open to extortion and refused on principle to pay ransoms.

Osthoff, who was freed December 18, has given a series of contradictory interviews about her ordeal, once fully veiled and at other times in western clothing and makeup. Germans were puzzled that she did not meet with her daughter until weeks after her release.

DPA

Subject: German news

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