The mothers of two German engineers kidnapped in Iraq have appeared on television to plead for the lives of their sons as fears continue for their safety.
The mothers of Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Bräunlich called for "compassion and mercy"
The mothers of two German hostages held in Iraq appeared on television Thursday in an emotional appeal to the captors to release their "innocent" sons.
The mothers of Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Bräunlich, who were not identified by name, appeared on ARD public television to call on the "compassion and mercy" of the hostage-takers to assure their sons' safe return.
"Thomas and Rene went to Iraq without political motives. They did not intend to harm your country," one of the mothers said.
The television appeal came after Doha-based satellite television channel aired a video of the two men and their captors Wednesday with an ultimatum that Berlin sever ties with Baghdad within 72 hours or they would be killed.
The Germans were shown apparently kneeling or sitting on the floor with four hooded men standing behind them, two of whom were armed while a third read out the kidnappers' demands.
"We saw our sons on television. We are deeply afraid for their lives," one of the mothers said, adding that the men's partners were terrified of losing them. Please release Rene and Thomas."
The hostage-takers said in a video aired on Al Jazeera television network Tuesday night that they would kill Bräunlich and Nitzschke if their demands were not met by the German government within 72-hours.
It's not clear when the deadline is meant to be: the video was dated Jan. 29, which suggests the ultimatum could all ready be over.
"According to our assessment, too, the situation has become serious," said Steinmeier in Berlin on Wednesday, after meeting with the ministry's emergency task force and the cabinet. He said he could not comment on the ultimatum and repeated Chancellor Angela Merkel's call to the kidnappers to release the men.
In the video, the kidnappers demanded the German embassy in Baghdad be closed and all German companies leave Iraq, according to Al Jazeera. They also called for the German government to put an end to all cooperation with the interim Iraqi government.
Over a week in captivity
The men, engineers from Leipzig who worked for German gas equipment installation company Cryotec, were abducted on Jan. 24 near the Baiji oil refinery compound by armed men in military uniform.
Three days later, a first video was aired on Al Jazeera in which the kidnappers asked Germany to pull its embassy out of Iraq immediately, halt all cooperation with the Iraqi government and help free women detained in Iraqi prisons. Bräunlich and Nitzschke, were filmed with armed masked men standing behind them. The two men called on their government to do everything it could for their release.
The kidnappers claim to belong to a group calling itself Ansar al-Tawheed wal Sunnah (Followers of Unity and Prophetic Tradition).