'The kidnappers got an offer': Susanne Osthoff
5 January 2006, BERLIN - The German government refused comment Thursday on a claim by a German Muslim that Berlin offered to pay a ransom for her release last month from the hands of kidnappers in Iraq.
5 January 2006
BERLIN - The German government refused comment Thursday on a claim by a German Muslim that Berlin offered to pay a ransom for her release last month from the hands of kidnappers in Iraq.
Susanne Osthoff, 43, was freed December 18 after three weeks in captivity but the terms have never been disclosed. Osthoff, a freelance archaeologist and aid worker, has not returned to Germany.
In Thursday's issue of the magazine Stern, she was quoted saying, "The kidnappers got an offer from the Germans. I'm not allowed to say how much, but they thought it wasn't enough." She said no more.
The Foreign Office declined comment after the interview appeared.
Shortly after her release, Foreign Office spokesman Martin Jaeger said Germany's policy had been stated by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: Germany was not open to extortion and refused on principle to pay ransoms.
In a video message delivered by DVD disk to a television bureau in Baghdad, the kidnappers had demanded Germany halt assistance to the Iraqi government. There have been persistent reports in the past of Germany paying for hostages' freedom, but these were never confirmed.
German all-news TV channel N-TV aired Thursday an interview with Osthoff, who wore ear-rings and makeup. Like an interview aired on ZDF television last month, it was interspersed with explanations by an announcer, since many of her remarks were puzzling.
Asked why she had not phoned her daughter since her release, Osthoff said she had tried "but this was technically not possible". N-TV said she was somewhere in the Middle East with no fixed abode.
Asked why she had given one interview to Qatar-based al-Jazeerah TV wearing a veil with only her eyes showing, Osthoff said she had been accommodated by a sheikh in the women's quarters at the time and had dressed to suit: "I didn't have time to change."
Subject: German news