Wed, Apr 04, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Militants issue new hostage deadline

CAPTIVE A German woman who has lived in Iraq for 40 years pleaded for help on a video posted on the Internet by a group calling themselves the Arrows of Righteousness

AGENCIES , DUBAI AND BAGHDAD

Iraqi militants holding a German woman and her adult son hostage said yesterday they were giving Germany a new deadline of 10 days to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan or the two would be killed.

The Arrows of Righteousness group posted a video on the Internet showing Hannelore Marianne Krause urging Germans to press their government to heed the demands of the militants. She broke down in tears at one stage.

The group had issued an earlier ultimatum on March 10 that it would kill the pair if Berlin failed to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. The two were seized from their home in western Baghdad in early February.

"I urge the German people to help me in my difficult situation," said Krause, according to an Arabic translation of her comments, only parts of which could be heard.

"Germany was safe before it got involved in this satanic coalition with America against what they call terrorism," said Krause, shown sitting on the ground next to her son.

Germany, which opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, has about 3,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO force stationed in the country after US-led troops toppled the Taliban in 2001.

"Maybe for the last time ... I urge you. Perhaps you can go to the newspapers, perhaps you can organize a protest march ... contact people who can help you, please, please, please," she said, addressing a son and daughter living in Germany.

In Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the new deadline. She said that a crisis team at the ministry was working intensively on the case.

A militant speaking on the video but out of sight said: "We are giving the German government another 10 days to begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan or we shall kill this criminal woman and her son who works in the Foreign Ministry of the government of [Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-] Maliki."

The militant said the woman was targeted partly because she worked at the Austrian embassy in Baghdad.

"Austria is a government hostile to Islam and Muslims and it also has troops to kill our children in Afghanistan," he said.

Krause said: "I also urge Austria to stand by me as I have worked many years at the [Austrian] commercial section ... Austria also has troops in Afghanistan and now I am going to be killed for that. I urge you to please help me."

Austria said last month it had five officers in Afghanistan and was not planning to send more troops.

Krause is married to an Iraqi and moved to Iraq 40 years ago. Her son is reported to be in his mid-20s and has dual German-Iraqi citizenship.

The German government has said it is working to try to secure the hostages' release but will not be blackmailed.

Meanwhile nine more people have been abducted in Iraq's flashpoint province of Diyala, police said yesterday, a day after the bodies of 21 Shiite workers snatched in similar circumstances were uncovered.

The nine electrical company workers were kidnapped at gunpoint on their way home from work on Monday near the Shiite town of Khalis, often used as a killing ground by presumed Sunni extremists.

The 21 Shiites, whose bodies were discovered on Monday, were also kidnapped on their way back from work after gunmen ambushed their minibuses on the main road out of Baghdad to Diyala.

Police in Diyala also said four insurgents were killed in Khalis yesterday when a car bomb they were intending to blow up detonated by accident.

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