Freed hostage: Kidnappers treated me well

A German woman freed after being held hostage in Iraq for more than three weeks said today that she was treated well by her kidnappers, who told her they do not hurt women or children.

Susanne Osthoff, a 43-year-old aid worker and archaeologist, told the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera satellite channel that instead of money, her abductors wanted humanitarian projects such as schools and hospitals be built in Sunni areas.

“Thank God, I am still alive,” Osthoff said in Arabic, a black scarf wrapped around her head.

Osthoff, the first German to be kidnapped in Iraq, disappeared with her Iraqi driver on November 25. Her release was announced on December 18. The driver is also believed to have been released.

The German government expressed concern today that Osthoff has not ruled out going back to Iraq and appealed to her not to return.

"After the intensive efforts of many who were involved, which in the end led to her release, I would find it hard to understand if Mrs. Ostoff again put herself in a dangerous situation,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

In most of the Al-Jazeera interview, Osthoff spoke in English, with an Arabic translation voiceover.

She said she resisted her kidnappers as they shoved her inside a car’s boot, according to the voiceover. She could see a police patrol under a nearby bridge, she added. It wasn’t clear if the police saw her.

The trip to where she was held lasted for a long time. There, her kidnappers called her by name and told her they knew she was a friend of Iraq, she said. They also told her that this was a political, not criminal. kidnapping.

The place where she was held was comfortable, she said, even though there was no power and no stores nearby. Mobile phones were not working. She drank tea and smoked a lot.

At some point during her captivity, she heard explosions nearby and knew that no one could enter the area where she was held.

Her captors told her they were trying to contact German authorities. Osthoff was later transferred to Baghdad and released. Details of how her release was secured were not clear from the translation.

She said a member of the German-Iraqi club helped with the release efforts at one point.

Osthoff said she knew all along that she was in danger in Iraq and that she might be killed by a bombing any time she went out. But she said she felt the Iraqi people were living in misery and needed help. The aid money that enters the country does not reach ordinary Iraqis, she argued.

Relatives in Germany have said Osthoff, a fluent Arabic speaker who was once married to a Jordanian national, has been out of touch with them for years.

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