Wednesday, April 13, 2005

U.S. Hostage in Iraq Appeals for Life on Video-TV

Yahoo! News
U.S. Hostage in Iraq Appeals for Life on Video-TV

DUBAI (Reuters) - An American contractor taken hostage in Iraq has urged the U.S. government to negotiate with his captors to save his life, according to a video aired by Al Jazeera television on Wednesday.

The video showed the man, named by the U.S. officials as Jeffrey Ake from Indiana, holding up his passport as armed and masked insurgents stood at his side.

Ake was seized from the site of a reconstruction project near Baghdad on Monday. It is not known who he was working for.

Al Jazeera said the hostage "urged the U.S. administration to open a dialogue with the Iraqi resistance ... to save his life."

He also called on U.S. forces to withdraw swiftly from Iraq, the Arabic television channel said.

Dressed in a light shirt, Ake looked nervous on the video, which showed him behind a desk and reading from a statement.

In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said officials were in contact with Ake's family.

Asked if the Bush administration would consider opening a dialogue with insurgents, McClellan said: "Our position is well known when it comes to negotiating ... Obviously this is a sensitive matter and it's a high priority for us."

Unlike many previous tapes issued by militants, the video did not name the group behind the kidnapping or show a flag or identifying banner.

More than 150 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq in the past year, either by Muslim militant groups seeking to drive out foreign troops or criminal gangs demanding ransom. About a third of those kidnapped have been killed.

A French journalist, Florence Aubenas, who was kidnapped in January, is still being held by militants, as are three Romanian journalists abducted last month.

Iraqi officials estimate around 5,000 Iraqis have been kidnapped over the last year, most of them by criminal gangs looking to profit from ransoms.