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Germany

Appeals for Release of German Hostages in Iraq Go Unanswered

More than two weeks after their kidnapping, the fate of the two German hostages being held in Iraq remains uncertain. According to foreign ministry staff in Berlin, rescue efforts continue unabated.

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Germans have not given up hope for the two men's release

Staff from the foreign ministry's crisis team have not yet been able to establish contact with either Rene Bräunlich, 31, or Thomas Nitzschke, 28, the two German engineers who've been held captive in Iraq since Jan. 24.

Appeals for their release have been coming from a variety of sources. Last week, the mothers of the two men appeared on television to call for "compassion and mercy" from the hostage-takers.

The Leipzig-based engineering firm Cryotec, for whom the two men were working in Iraq, also issued a video in which the company's CEO, Peter Bienert, asked for contact to be established. The video was aired by Al-Jazeera, but a Cryotec spokeswoman told DPA news agency on Thursday that they have not had news of any reactions from Iraq.

Unusual support

Now, support is coming from an unusual source -- the German Football Federation (DFB), and the German Football League (DFL). After consulting with crisis management staff at the German foreign ministry, the organizations appealed to the Iraqi football association to mediate for the release of two hostages.

The DFB said on Thursday that its letter to their Iraqi counterparts would stress their good relations and the support the DFB has given the Iraqis in recent years.

S/W Deutsche Geiseln in Irak Rene Bräunlich Thomas Nitzschke

Rene Bräunlich (left) und Thomas Nitzschke (right) were abducted over two weeks ago

The DFB and the DFL also sent letters to the parents of the two engineers, expressing their solidarity. One of the hostages, Rene Bräunlich, has played in the soccer league of his home city, Leipzig, for years.

For Rene's mother, the uncertainty surrounding her son will be even harder to bear on Sunday. "That's Rene's birthday," his mother told DPA. "He'll be 32."

Bräunlich and Nitzschke were kidnapped by armed men in the northern Iraqi city of Baiji, where they were working on an oil refinery compound. Their abductors are demanding that the German government close the German embassy in Baghdad, end all collaboration with the new Iraqi government, and withdraw German companies operating in Iraq.

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