German government officials have no reason to believe that two Germans held in Iraq for almost six weeks are no longer alive, according to a newspaper report.
Leipzigers have held candlelight vigils for the hostages
While no direct contact between Berlin and the kidnappers of engineers Rene Bräunlich and Thomas Nitzschke has been established, high-ranking German security experts told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that there was no reason to believe the two had been killed.
"There is no reason to doubt that they are alive," another expert told the daily.
According the report, the German government continuously receives bits of information about the situation of the hostages via middlemen.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier invited the families of the two men to Berlin last Sunday as a sign of support. He also thanked Christian Führer, the pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, who has been organizing weekly vigils in support of Bräunlich and Nitzschke.
The two engineers were abducted on Jan. 24 near the town of Baiji, which is located about 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of Baghdad.
A video showed the two men with their kidnappers
A militant group called Ansar al-Tawhid Wa-Sunna had issued a final ultimatum last month. The kidnappers said they would kill the men unless Germany ends ties with the new Iraqi government and prevents German companies from doing business in the country.
In December, German archeologist Susanne Osthoff was released in Iraq after having been kidnapped and held for three weeks. According to reports, the German government allegedly paid the kidnappers $5 million (4.2 million euros).