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Germany

Leipzig Keeps Candles Burning for German Hostages

Hundreds gathered in Leipzig on Monday to show their solidarity with the two German engineers still being held hostage in Iraq. The organizers called for more support and solidarity from the public.

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Not enough lights of hope

Over 350 people gathered in Leipzig at a twilight vigil for Thomas Nitschke and Rene Braeunlich. The two men were abducted in northern Iraq three months ago. The participants lit candles and wore green bands as a sign of their hope that the two engineers would finally be released.

A prayer service was led by Christian Führer, the Leipzig pastor who helped rally pro-democracy advocates in communist East Germany in 1989. He called on Leipzig's citizens to show their solidarity with the two men.

"We have hundreds of thousands of people in this city who are healthy and could come here too," Führer said. "Images with thousands of protestors might make an impression on the hostage-takers."

It was the 25th vigil in Leipzig for Nitzschke and Braeunlich since their abduction on January 24. The men were kidnapped while installing industrial equipment for their company Cryotec in the Iraqi city of Beidschi.

25. Mahnwache für sächsische Geiseln im Irak

Old and young Leipzig shows its support

Although the turnout at the vigil was low, there have been other signs of solidarity for the two men in Leipzig. Runners at the city's marathon on Sunday wore t-shirts saying "Freedom for Rene and Thomas". At the Monday vigil, Christian Führer read a letter signed by 1,300 engineers from Saxony, in which they refuted political criticism for the men's work in Iraq. Fellow co-workers at the company are working unpaid overtime in solidarity. And Cryotec has launched a website to raise awareness about the plight of the engineers.

“Despite widespread speculation and unconfirmed reports," said company head Peter Binert, "my gut tells me that something is about to happen. We will increase the pressure. Thomas Nitzschke’s call for help touched us very deeply.”

The Iraqi militants holding the men hostage has threatened to kill them, demanding the release of Iraqi prisoners held by U.S. forces in Iraq. The last sign of the men came two weeks ago, when a video posted on the Internet showed Nitzschke and Braeunlich alive, pleading for help.

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