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Iraq president says no idea who took German hostage

December 12, 2005

Iraq president says no idea who took German hostage

BERLIN (Reuters) - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Sunday he did not know who had kidnapped German archaeologist Susanne Osthoff but he did not expect them to kill her because Germany had not taken part in the Iraq war. 

Asked by German ARD television whether he knew which group had taken Osthoff hostage or where she might be held, Talabani said: "No, I'm sorry." 

"We have tried everything, we have done our best to find out where she is and which group is behind it. We are using our relations with our Arab brothers in order to try and get her released," he added. 

Ingrid Hala, mother of German archaeologist Susanne Osthoff who was kidnapped in Iraq 15 days ago, holds a candle during a vigil in Osthoff's former hometown Ebersberg, about 20 km east of Munich, December 11, 2005. (REUTERS/Alexandra Winkler)
"I don't expect the hostage to be killed. There are no reasons for that. She is German. Germany did not take part in the war against the dictator ... There is no motive for terrorists to kill a German citizen," Talabani said. 

Asked on the same programme if there was anything new to report on the case, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said: "There is nothing new that I should say sensibly." 

Osthoff, who spent more than a decade working on excavations in Iraq, disappeared on Nov. 25. Four days later she and her driver were shown blindfolded and surrounded by three armed men on a videotape delivered to the ARD's Baghdad office. 

More than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and 52 foreign hostages are known to have been killed by their captors. 

Osthoff's mother, sister and brother have all pleaded for her release, as has Chancellor Angela Merkel. Osthoff, who speaks fluent Arabic, has converted to Islam and was working as a volunteer in Iraqi hospitals before her abduction. 

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