LAPORTE, Ind. – The wife of an Indiana businessman kidnapped a year ago in Iraq broke her public silence Tuesday, revealing that his captors called their home in the weeks after his abduction and demanded money.
"They said they were holding him and they would destroy him if I don't cooperate with them," Liliana Ake, the wife of Jeffrey Ake, said in a cable television interview.
She knew they were really the kidnappers because they responded to some questions with answers only her husband would have known, she said. But the last such call came May 1, she said — 18 days after Jeffrey Ake was last seen in an April 13, 2005, video that showed him being held at gunpoint by at least three people.
"In order to resolve this matter and secure Jeff's release, you must call me again," Liliana Ake said in a statement directed to his kidnappers. "Jeff should be able to give you the number. Please take the next step to release my husband and return his children's lives to normal."
Ake was in Iraq working on a water treatment plant when he disappeared April 11, 2005. His company, Equipment Express, had already built a machine that fills containers of cooking oil and a system to provide water bottles to be sold in Baghdad.
No one has claimed responsibility for his abduction. In the video broadcast two days later, Ake asked the U.S. government to withdraw from Iraq and save his life.
The FBI says it has no new information on Ake's whereabouts, and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad won't comment.
"We have no reason to believe he's not alive," FBI spokeswoman Wendy Osborne has said.
Ake's family and friends had been mostly silent since the abduction, even asking officials in his northern Indiana hometown to call off a public prayer vigil a few days after he was kidnapped.
"I was just afraid for Jeff's life," Liliana Ake said of her silence. "I did not know whether my request or plea would help him or harm him."
Liliana Ake said in the interview that she decided to speak out after a year, in part, because of the March 30 release of hostage Jill Carroll. The journalist's family, The Christian Science Monitor and press freedom groups all issued pleas for her release during her 82 days as a captive in Iraq.
She said she and the couple's four children — ages 3, 6, 9 and 16 — have suffered.
"I haven't slept all year," she said. "I wake up in the middle of the night at 1 and I cannot sleep."
In the interview, she also thanked her church, the LaPorte Rotary Club and all those across the country who have sent encouraging letters.
"Please keep on praying for us," she said.
In a statement released by the LaPorte mayor's office, Ake said she was meeting Tuesday with family, friends and her husband's co-workers.
She said she wanted to "acknowledge all of those who are helping us to successfully build Jeff's dream in his absence, as well as those who are helping our family through this terrible ordeal. We are also here to reaffirm our faith that Jeff will return home soon."
Insurgents in Iraq have kidnapped more than a dozen Americans and killed at least five. Ake is one of five people whose fate is unknown.