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Germany

Asylum Seeker Taken Hostage in Iraq

A man seeking asylum in Germany and claiming to be a journalist has been taken hostage by a previously unknown group demanding the release of all Muslims in German jails, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday. The news weekly said the man, identified as an Iraqi national named Hassan al-Sajdi, had claimed in a hostage-style video tape sent to the offices of the US magazine Time that he was working for an unnamed German media company. The man, who had lived for some time in Germany, was pictured holding a document believed to be an expired German rail card, Spiegel said. It said the hostage takers, who go by the name of "The Protectors of Islam Brigade," had also demanded that the German government sever ties with the Iraqi authorities. Sources close to the government in Berlin said that the man was almost certainly not a German citizen and that its embassy in Baghdad had been alerted and was looking into the incident. Spiegel said Sajdi had returned to his homeland a few months ago but that he had come to the attention of the German authorities for his links to a group of Iraqis in exile who stormed Iraq's embassy in Berlin in August 2002. Iraq has been plagued by repeated hostage-takings of foreigners and locals since the US-led war launched two years ago to remove the former dictator Saddam Hussein. Some hostages have been released, many of them for ransom, while others have been executed. The fates of several remain unknown.

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