BERLIN, (Reuters) – The German government believes a citizen abducted in Iraq three weeks ago is still alive and in relatively good health, Focus magazine said on Saturday.
The weekly magazine said the emergency task force set up by the government also felt the group holding Susanne Osthoff no longer believed the archaelogist was a foreign spy.The foreign ministry declined to comment on the report or reveal what it knew about Osthoff”s whereabouts or condition beyond saying that the task force would meet on Saturday.
Osthoff, 43, 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 Baghdad office of Germany”s ARD public television station.
ARD said the kidnappers demanded Germany end all support for the current Iraqi government or the hostages would be killed.
Germany does not have troops in Iraq and has ruled out sending them there, but the government does help train Iraqi forces outside the country.
More than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the U.S.-led forces invaded the country in 2003 to topple the government of Saddam Hussein. Fifty-two foreign hostages are known to have been killed by their captors.
Around 350 people joined Osthoff”s sister at a vigil by Berlin”s central Brandenburg Gate on Wednesday evening.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said last Sunday there were no leads as to who kidnapped Osthoff but that he did not expect her to be killed because Germany did not take part in the Iraq war.
Osthoff, who speaks fluent Arabic, is a convert to Islam and has an 11-year-old daughter.