BERLIN, (Reuters) – The sister of a German hostage in Iraq appealed to the German public on Wednesday to demonstrate its support for 43-year-old Susanne Osthoff, a native Bavarian who was abducted by gunmen over two weeks ago.
"I am asking the people of Germany to show solidarity with my sister Susanne. For the French and Italian hostages, we know that the support of their fellow citizens was of immeasurable importance.
People went to the streets and news coverage was extensive," Anja Osthoff told a news conference.
She also reiterated her plea to the hostage takers to release her sister and all others held in Iraq.
Susanne Osthoff, an archeologist 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 that Germany end all support for the current Iraqi government or the hostages would be killed. German magazines Der Spiegel and Focus reported that the kidnappers” deadline has already expired.
Osthoff called on Germans to participate in a signature drive aimed at showing the hostage-takers and Susanne Osthoff that this country of 82 million people had not forgotten her. "Show your sympathy. Show your support for her release".
People can sign the appeal electronically at www.medeor.org, the Web site of the aid organisation Susanne Osthoff worked for in 2003 to deliver medicines to war-battered Iraqi hospitals.
Susanne Osthoff, who speaks fluent Arabic, is a convert to Islam and has an 11-year-old daughter.
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.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on 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.
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.