Germany Pays for Terror: Hannelore Krause and the Iraqi Hostage Industry

Germany Pays for Terror: Hannelore Krause and the Iraqi Hostage Industry

Earlier this month, on July 11, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the release from Iraqi captivity of German-born hostage Hannelore Kadhim -- or, as he called her, "Hannelore Krause." The now 62-year-old Kadhim and her son Sinan were reported to have been kidnapped from their Baghdad home in early February. Speaking before the assembled media at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Steinmeier noted: "At the present time, I can tell you nothing about the background to the release," before adding: "And I ask you please to refrain from any speculations. . . ." Most of the German media obediently complied, just as most of the German media -- and the American media -- has obediently followed the German government's lead in referring to Kadhim by her maiden name: thus reinforcing a connection to Germany that in light of the four decades she has lived in Iraq might otherwise appear rather tenuous.

This was not, moreover, the first time that the foreign minister had had the occasion to make such a request. Already in January 2006, when German engineers René Bräulich and Thomas Nitzschke were kidnapped somewhere north of Baghdad, Steinmeier was asked whether the seizure of the two engineers might have been provoked by the $5 million ransom that Germany reportedly paid merely weeks before to obtain the release of archaeologist Susanne Osthoff. "Not the ransom payment," he replied curtly, "but the reports about it."

But despite the discretion shown by the established media this time, if one is to judge by the comments in German Internet forums, blogs and on the Web sites of Germany's major newspapers and magazines, the German public is not in doubt: Germany has yet again paid ransom to obtain the release of a hostage in Iraq. "They've milked the BRD again," one Jochen wrote, for instance, on the site of daily Die Welt: "Or, better said, they've milked those who -- as always -- end up holding the check: the tax-payers." "I do not even want to know how much the ransom payment was," one Stefan wrote, "And I do not even want to imagine what the terrorists are going to do with this money."

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