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Did German convert in Iraq play along with staged kidnapping to pressure release of terrorst who killed US Navy diver?

January 1, 2006

German hostage told she was safe as a Muslim
Kidnappers told woman she would not be hurt because she is ‘Iraq's friend'

Reuters Updated: 1:42 p.m. ET Dec. 26, 2005
DUBAI - A German held hostage in Iraq for three weeks said on Monday that the kidnappers who freed her a week ago promised not to hurt her because she was a Muslim.

In her first interview since the ordeal, Susanne Osthoff, 43, told Al Jazeera television at its Qatar headquarters that they also said they did not want money.

"They said ‘Ms. Susan, we know you and you are Iraq's friend'," said Osthoff, a convert to Islam who speaks fluent Arabic. She is an archaeologist who has spent more than a decade working on excavations in Iraq.

"'We're informing you now this was a political reason why we kidnapped you, and we'll inform you later about what will happen, so don't be afraid, we don't harm women or children, and you are Muslim'" Osthoff quoted a kidnapper as saying.

"I was very happy because I knew I wasn't in the hands of criminals," she said. Her comments were translated into Arabic from English and parts were unclear.

It was uncertain if she plans to return to Iraq, which she left last week for an undisclosed location to spend time with her daughter.

The fate of her driver remains unclear. Osthoff said she was driv

After her release, she chose not to return to Germany, where she has not lived for many years.
Wearing a pinstripe jacket and loose black headscarf during the interview, Osthoff said the kidnappers pushed her into the trunk of a car in what she called a "professional performance."

en to a place near the Iraqi border but was later taken to Baghdad and released.

"I wasn't in tough circumstances and they treated me well," she said. "They understood that I knew about the Iraqi people's plight."

The German government denied her freedom was linked to Berlin's release of a Hizbollah member jailed for life in 1985 for the murder of a U.S. Navy diver.

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