The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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British woman abducted in Iraq

London, Oct. 19 (Reuters): A British-Iraqi woman working as the head of Care International in Iraq was abducted in Baghdad early today, just over two weeks after kidnappers beheaded British hostage Kenneth Bigley.

Margaret Hassan, who has dual nationality and has been working for Care in Iraq for more than a decade, was seized by kidnappers at 0430 GMT, a spokeswoman said.

Al Jazeera television later aired footage of Hassan after her capture, sitting in a room and looking anxious. The station showed close-ups of Hassan's identification cards and said the video was accompanied by a claim of responsibility from an unnamed Iraqi group. The Care spokeswoman declined to say whether Hassan was in a vehicle at the time of the abduction, or whether she was alone.

She also said she had no idea who had kidnapped Hassan, or what their demands might be, but was keen to stress that Hassan saw herself as part of the Iraqi community. 'She sees herself as an Iraqi. Iraq is her home. She has been living there for many years and would never consider coming back to Britain,' the spokeswoman said.

Engineer Bigley became the first British hostage to be killed in Iraq when he was beheaded by his kidnappers ' followers of the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ' earlier this month.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was attacked by Bigley's brother Paul for not doing enough to save him, said his government would do everything possible to secure Hassan's release.

'This is someone who has lived in Iraq for 30 years, someone who is immensely respected, someone who is doing her level best to help the country,' he said. It shows you the type of people we are up against, that they are prepared to kidnap somebody like this.'

A statement from the charity said Hassan is employed by Care Australia as its Iraq country director.

British-born Hassan has lived in Iraq for around 30 years, is married to an Iraqi and has been working for the charity since it started operations there in the early 1990s.

'As of now we are unaware of the motive for the abduction. As far as we know, Margaret is unharmed,' the statement said. 'We are doing whatever we can to secure her release.' British defence secretary Geoff Hoon said news of the kidnapping was 'a very disturbing development'.

'This just demonstrates the depths to which these terrorists will go,' he said.

A foreign office spokesman said British officials in Iraq were trying to establish what happened. Care International is one of the world's largest independent global relief and development organisations.

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