Published November 29, 2005
| Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq – The German Foreign Ministry reported Tuesday that one of its citizens in Iraq has been missing for five days, and a television station broadcast photos allegedly showing the blindfolded woman with her captors.
Germany's ARD television reported that the woman was kidnapped and that the pictures were taken from a video in which her captors demanded that Germany stop any dealings with Iraq's government. Germany has ruled out sending troops to Iraq and opposed the U.S.-led war.
It was not immediately clear what the woman, identified by her family as 43-year-old Susanne Osthoff, was doing in Iraq. Her name was not released. Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger would only say that the woman was missing.
Osthoff's mother, identified only as Ingrid H., told Germany N24 news station that her daughter is an archaeologist working for a German aid organization distributing medicine and medical supplies since before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. ARD reported that the woman speaks fluent Arabic.
Separately, the aid group Christian Peacemaker Teams confirmed in a statement Tuesday that four people from the group had been taken hostage on Saturday and that Norman Kember, a 74-year-old Briton, was among them.
The group said it has had a team in Iraq since October 2002, working with U.S. and Iraqi detainees and training others in nonviolent intervention and human rights documentation. Kember and another person were part of a visiting delegation, while two of the group's staff based in Iraq were also taken, the statement said.
The group said it would not identify the other three people taken hostage, but stressed that it worked on behalf of Iraqi civilians.
"The team's work has focused on documenting and focusing public attention on detainee abuses, connecting citizens of Iraq to local and international human rights organizations, and accompanying Iraqi civilians as they interact with multinational military personnel and Iraq's government officials," the group said.
The statement said those taken hostage knew the risks when they went into Iraq.
The organization said it "does not advocate the use of violent force to save our lives should we be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a conflict situation."
On Monday, Deputy Interior Minister Hussein Kamal said authorities had no leads. No group has claimed responsibility and details of the apparent kidnapping were unclear.
On Sunday, a Canadian official said two Canadians were in the group. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Colton said only that an American had been reported missing and that the person's name and organization were being withheld.
Britain has said Kember, a retired professor, had vanished in Iraq.
Kember is a longtime peace activist who once fretted publicly that he was taking the easy way out by protesting in safety at home while British soldiers risked their lives in Iraq.
In Barcelona, Spain, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he had contacted Iraqi Foreign Minister Hohshyar Zebari about Kember's abduction, and that Zebari "pledged every assistance from the Iraqi government."
Iraq was rocked by a wave of foreigner kidnappings and beheadings in 2004 and early 2005. Insurgents including Al Qaeda in Iraq seized more than 225 people, killing at least 38 of them — including three Americans. The victims included aid workers, journalists and contractors, seized in an attempt to drive foreigners out of the country or to win large ransoms.
Since May, abductions have dropped off considerably, mainly because many Western groups left Iraq and security precautions for those remaining have been tightened, with foreigners staying in barricaded compounds and moving only in heavily guarded convoys.
The last American to be kidnapped was Jeffrey Ake, a contract worker from LaPorte, Ind., who was abducted April 11. He was seen in a video aired days afterward, held with a gun to his head, but there has been no word on his fate since.
With fewer Western targets, militants have turned to kidnapping Arab diplomats in a campaign to prevent nations from expanding relations with the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.
Egypt's top diplomat in Baghdad and two Algerian diplomats were kidnapped and killed in July, raising a cry of outrage across the Arab world. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for kidnapping two employees of the Moroccan Embassy who disappeared last month.
It later announced it had sentenced them to death for apostasy but never confirmed their execution.