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Hostage begs britain to pull its troops out { October 23 2004 }

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Hostage begs Britain to pull its troops out
CARE official makes tearful plea on videotape
- Karl Vick, Washington Post
Saturday, October 23, 2004

Baghdad -- Kidnapped aid official Margaret Hassan, pleading for her life between terrified sobs, appeared on a videotape Friday urging British Prime Minister Tony Blair to abandon Iraq and not to assist the United States in preparing for an assault on Fallujah.

"Please help me, please help me. This might be my last hour," Hassan, the director of CARE International's operations in Iraq, said on the video delivered to the satellite television network Al-Jazeera. "Please, the British people, ask Mr. Blair to take the troops out of Iraq and not to bring them here to Baghdad."

Hassan, a native of Ireland who married an Iraqi and moved to Baghdad 30 years ago, was seized Tuesday morning outside the west Baghdad office of CARE. She is the best-known and highest-ranking aid official among the roughly 150 foreigners and Iraqis kidnapped here in recent months.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for her abduction. And unlike previous cases, no banners or armed, masked captors were visible on the video sent to Al-Jazeera.

In the video, Hassan said her abductors had linked her fate to the actions of Britain. The Blair government announced this week that it had agreed to a Pentagon request to shift troops from southern Iraq to an area just south of Baghdad to relieve U.S. troops needed for an assault on Fallujah.

"That is the reason behind kidnapping people like me and Mr. Bigley," Hassan said, referring to Kenneth Bigley, the British engineer whose beheading was broadcast on the Internet this month after he had made similar videotaped appeals to Blair.

"Please, please, I beg of you," Hassan said in a choked voice, before burying her face in a handkerchief. "I beg of you, please."

Blair's decision to redeploy the troops drew strong criticism from within his Labor Party, and Hassan's desperate appeal is likely to stoke opposition among the British public.

In a statement, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the Hassan video "distressing" but offered no concessions.

"I have the greatest sympathy for what her family is suffering," Straw said. "Margaret Hassan has spent more than 30 years working for the Iraqi people. We hope all Iraqis will join us in calling for her immediate release."

The anguished tape of Hassan marked an escalation in the level of terror that hostage-takers have been able to inflict on foreign civilians in Iraq. More than 30 male hostages have been slain since April, and seven women had previously been taken hostage, all of whom were eventually freed.

In an interview with Fox News, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi called Hassan's kidnapping a "tragedy" but added, "Nobody is going to ... give in to their demands."

"We have to remain very strong and adamant that we should bring the terrorists to justice," Allawi said.

Hassan's abduction was condemned Friday by Iraqis who said it could backfire for her unidentified assailants.

"If Margaret Hassan will be killed, it will be the last straw that will break the camel's back," said Hassan Jameel, a Baghdad University political science professor. "This abduction distorts not only the reputation of the resistance, but it distorts even the reputation of Islam. We don't accept this. We hope that these kidnappers will regain their sanity and release her immediately."

Hassan began working for CARE after the Persian Gulf War in 1991, though she has been involved in relief work for a quarter-century. She leads a staff of about 30 Iraqis who distribute medicine and medical supplies to hospitals and help restore access to clean water. Hassan was an outspoken critic of the sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations after the 1991 war.

The head of CARE International suspended the group's Iraq operations after Hassan's abduction.

Also on Friday, the Macedonian government confirmed that two Macedonian construction workers had been killed by militants. Al-Jazeera said Monday that it had received a videotape showing the beheadings of the two men. The militants had accused the hostages of spying for the United States, Al-Jazeera reported.

U.S. Marines, meanwhile, continued to probe the outskirts of Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad, exchanging fire for a second day with insurgents who have held the city since April.

Sunni Muslim clerics warned that an assault on the city would risk widening the insurgency ahead of elections planned for January. U.S. and Iraqi officials say the election is the reason they have threatened to strike Fallujah, arguing it is crucial that voters in Iraq's Sunni triangle be included in balloting.

Talks aimed at a peaceful handover of Fallujah to Iraqi forces were disrupted by the interim Iraqi government's demand that city leaders give up foreign fighters led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian blamed for a number of kidnappings, beheadings, car bombings and other attacks.

In the northern city of Mosul, five American soldiers were injured in the bombings of two armored vehicles. The attacks followed a showdown between Iraqi national guardsman and insurgents outside a mosque that was suspected of harboring guerrillas, according to a U.S. Army official.

On Friday, tensions rose further as word spread of the arrest by U.S. forces of Abdul-Sattar Abdul-Jabbar, a prominent official in the Association of Muslim Scholars, which represents Iraq's Sunni clerics.

"We ask the government, what did Sheikh Abdul-Sattar do? Does he have al- Zarqawi?" asked a fellow cleric, Hareth Ubeidi, in a sermon at the Baghdad mosque where the association is headquartered. The group vociferously opposes the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Muthana Hareth Dhari, the son of the association's leader, called the arrest "a dangerous escalation from the side of the occupier."

Chronicle news services contributed to this report.

Page A - 1

3 kidnapped in kabul { October 29 2004 }
6 egyptians 2 iraqis kidnapped in iraq { September 24 2004 }
Afghan militants threaten united nations hostages { November 1 2004 }
Aid worker hassan believed slain in video
Alqaeda says kills egypt envoy in iraq
Alqaeda website shows egyptian diplomat kidnapped { July 6 2005 }
Brits rescue peace activists held hostage in iraq
Egyptian diplomat kidnapped in iraq { July 23 2004 }
Egyptians and iraqis kidnapped { September 25 2004 }
Filipino hostage released in iraq after pullout { July 20 2004 }
Freed egyptian says treated well by iraqi captors
French journalist freed in iraq after 5 months
Hostage begs britain to pull its troops out { October 23 2004 }
Imprisoned women not freed as tensions grow
Iraqi militants free two hostages
Italian journalist held hostage pleads for life { February 16 2005 }
Italy horror at hostage execution
Japanese hostages freed { April 15 2004 }
Japanese south koreans kidnapped by iraqis { April 8 2004 }
Japanese studying depleted uranium taken hostage { April 12 2004 }
Jeffrey ake from indiana pleads for his life { April 14 2005 }
Kidnapped aid workers in afghanistan released
Kidnapped polish woman freed
Kidnappers snatch 2 americans 1 briton from homes
Marine in kidnap video charged with desertion { December 10 2004 }
Militants release video of japanese hostage { October 27 2004 }
Peace group kidnapped in iraq { October 2005 }
Philippines troops out of iraq
Ransom from italians seen as fueling crisis { September 29 2004 }
Second hostage killed in iraq
Six foreign truck drivers threatened with beheading
Tape of bigley decapitation posted on web
Third beheading was south korean who spoke arabic
Three headless bodies discovered north of baghdad
Three iraqi kurd hostages beheaded
Three members of allawi family abducted { November 10 2004 }
Video of 11 iraqi soliders executed posted on web
Video on web site shows beheading of man

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