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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 19:58 GMT 20:58 UK
Disturbing images of begging hostage
Paul Wood
By Paul Wood
BBC correspondent in Baghdad


These are some extremely harrowing images of a woman who is literally begging for her life in exchange for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.

Image of Margaret Hassan shown on al-Jazeera television
Margaret Hassan's family are trying to stress her Iraqi connections

That leads some people to conclude this is definitely a political group which has taken her, forcing her to make this political statement.

This is not good news.

Diplomats and intelligence analysts here believe the most hard line of these ideological groups are intent on killing and kidnapping aid workers in order to bring about some kind of collapse in Iraq and put pressure on the coalition.

Alternatively, it is interesting to note there is no insignia or banner on the video.

In an unprecedented move, there is no identification of the group in the video.

So the alternative is that the group is simply kidnapping for money. That represents Mrs Hassan's best chance of survival.

Mrs Hassan is a very different kind of hostage to those before her.

Tahseen ali Hassan
Mrs Hassan's husband reportly wants the UK to make no comment

It is being stressed by her husband and those trying to free her that she is an Iraqi; she is somebody who is here to help the Iraqi people.

Unconfirmed reports from an Arabic satellite news channel quote her husband as saying the British government and the prime minister should not comment on her case because he feels that could damage the effort to secure her freedom.

This is consistent with the family strategy of stressing her Iraqi connections and not her British connections.

Whether, of course, that works depends on the nature of the group holding her and that we do not know.


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