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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 18:56 GMT
Italy hostage shown in video plea
Giuliana Sgrena
Giuliana Sgrena is the eighth Italian to be taken hostage in Iraq
Kidnapped Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena has been shown begging for help and urging foreign troops to leave Iraq in a new videotape.

Ms Sgrena, who works for the Italian Il Manifesto newspaper, urged her family to put pressure on the Italian government to secure her release.

Shortly after the video appeared, the Italian senate voted to extend the country's military presence in Iraq.

It has been suggested that the video was released to coincide with the vote.

Italian intelligence believe the group which took Ms Sgrena earlier this month is closely following the political debate in Italy, and some of its supporters might even be based in the country, Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera reported.

In the emotional footage, a tense and tearful Ms Sgrena says: "You must end the occupation, it's the only way we can get out of this situation. I'm counting on you."

Speaking in Italian and French she adds: "I ask the Italian government, the Italian people struggling against the occupation, I ask my husband, please, help me."

Help me, help me to demand the withdrawal of the troops, help me spare my life
Giuliana Sgrena

And in a message directed specifically to her husband, Pierre, Ms Sgrena says: "You have always been by my side in all my battles, I beg you, help me. Show all the pictures I have taken of the Iraqis, of the children hit by the cluster bombs, of the women. I beg you."

At one stage, she appears on the verge of crying and struggles to recite her message, said the AP news agency, which obtained a copy of the tape.

"Nobody should come to Iraq at this time," she says. "Not even journalists. Nobody."

Her husband, Pierre Scolari, said the footage was "good news" because it proved she was alive. Ms Sgrena's editor in chief at Il Manifesto, Gabriele Polo, said he was "relieved to see her".

A little-known militant group, Islamic Jihad Organisation, has said it kidnapped Ms Sgrena and is demanding that Italy withdraw its troops from Iraq.

A group using the same name said in September it had killed two aid workers, Simona Torretta and Simona Pari, who were later released by another group.

Negotiations

In the video obtained on Wednesday, Ms Sgrena is shown alone against a white background. In the corner of the screen the words "Mujahideen Without Borders" is shown red Arabic writing.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said Italy is trying to secure Ms Sgrena's negotiated release.

Ms Sgrena is the eighth Italian to be taken hostage, a figure which includes Ms Pari and Ms Torretta.

An Italian journalist and Red Cross aid worker, Enzo Baldoni, was kidnapped last August and killed by a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq.

Four Italians were taken hostage in Iraq in April. One of them, civilian security guard Fabrizio Quattrocchi, was later shot dead by his captors, while three were released.

The Italian Senate voted by 141 to 112 to extend the country's 3,000-strong military presence in Iraq until June.


BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why Italian politicians voted to keep troops in Iraq



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