Kidnappers threaten to hand female hostage to al-Qaida affiliate
BAGHDAD, Iraq – The kidnappers of aid worker Margaret Hassan threatened to turn her over to an al-Qaida affiliated group within 48 hours if the British government refuses to pull its troops from Iraq, Al-Jazeera television reported Tuesday.
Al-Jazeera broadcast a video of a hooded gunman but did not air the sound. Instead, the newscaster said the kidnappers gave Britain 48 hours to meet their demands, “primarily the withdrawal” of British troops.
Otherwise, the 59-year-old Hassan will be handed over to the al-Qaida in Iraq group, headed by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The group has beheaded a number of other hostages, including three Americans and a Briton.
It was the first time a deadline has been set in the abduction of Hassan. The newscaster said the station declined to broadcast the entire tape because “of the hostage’s condition.”
Hassan, an Irish-British-Iraqi citizen who heads CARE International in Iraq, was abducted last month from her car in Baghdad. No group has claimed responsibility for her kidnapping and there was no sign on the brief broadcast of any banner identifying who held her.
Al-Jazeera decided not to air the video because it was “too graphic,” spokesman Jihad Ballout said.
In Dublin, Hassan’ birthplace, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who read the text of the video but hadn’t seen it, said he believes it shows the 59-year-old Hassan pleading for her life directly to the camera before suddenly fainting, according to Britain’s Press Association news agency.
He said a bucket of water is then thrown over her head and she is filmed lying wet and helpless on the ground before getting up and crying, the agency said.
Ahern told the Irish parliament that the video was “distressing” and said “there were a number of very dangerous and very serious timescales stated.”
Her captors previously released three videos of Hassan, and in two of them she pleads for her life, saying she fears she will be beheaded. But she does not say when, and none of her kidnappers have appeared in any of the tapes.