Insurgents Kidnap Archaeologist Susanne Osthoff

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A prominent German archaeologist and aid worker who had lived and worked in Iraq for years has been kidnapped, the German government confirmed today as images of her surrounded by masked, armed men were broadcast on international television. The kidnappers threatened to kill the archaeologist, Susanne Osthoff, unless Berlin stopped cooperating with the Iraqi government, according to a videotape delivered to the German state broadcaster ARD. A still image from the tape showed two blindfolded people flanked by three men, their faces concealed by kaffiyehs. One of the men held a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Ms. Osthoff was kidnapped with her driver, whose name was not released. She is the first German national to be kidnapped in Iraq.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, facing her first crisis since taking office last week, called on Ms. Osthoff's kidnappers today to release the archaeologist."We condemn this act in the harshest possible terms," Mrs. Merkel said in a brief statement to the press."We urgently appeal to the perpetrators to hand both of them over into safe custody." Mrs. Merkel said that the government had set up a crisis committee to deal with the kidnapping, and she told Ms. Osthoff's family in Germany that everything would be done to secure her release."They can rest assured," Mrs. Merkel said of the family,"that the government will do everything in its power to bring both the kidnapped to safety and to secure their lives." Ms. Osthoff's kidnapping was already riveting a German public that has long been among Europe's most skeptical in its attitude toward the Iraq war, which Germany has opposed from the beginning. Germany has consistently refused to send troops to Iraq, and Mrs. Merkel has vowed not to change that policy. But she has also said she would continue Germany's ongoing training of Iraqi police in the United Arab Emirates, an activity that the kidnappers apparently were referring to in their demand that Germany stop cooperating with the Iraqi government.

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