Charity head kidnapped in Iraq

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The Independent Online

Footage of kidnapped UK-born aid worker Margaret Hassan with her hands bound has been shown on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic TV station said today.

Footage of kidnapped UK-born aid worker Margaret Hassan with her hands bound has been shown on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic TV station said today.

Mrs Hassan, an Iraqi national who heads CARE International's operation in the country, was shown sitting with her hands tied behind her back looking "very distressed", editor-in-chief Ahmed Sheikh said.

Shots of her passport, credit and identity cards were also aired.

Mrs Hassan, who is married to an Iraqi and has lived in the country for 30 years, was abducted in Baghdad early this morning.

Mr Sheikh said the video was accompanied by a claim of responsibility from an unnamed Iraqi group, but the channel did not know where it had come from.

Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to do "whatever we can" to secure Mrs Hassan's release.

He told reporters inside No 10, after previously scheduled talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: "This is someone who has lived in Iraq for 30 years, someone who is immensely respected, someone who is doing their level best to help the country.

"I think it shows you the type of people we are up against.

"We don't know which group it is, so there's really a limit at this stage to what I can say to you.

"We will do whatever we can, obviously."

Al-Jazeera reported that an "armed Iraqi group" said it had kidnapped Mrs Hassan.

Mr Sheikh said: "The video shows Margaret Hassan sitting with her hands tied behind her back and photos of her passport, credit and identity cards.

"She looks in a very distressed position."

The tape was received by the station "through the usual channels", he added.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he was "very concerned" by the kidnap, adding: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to her, her family and her colleagues."

Mrs Hassan has worked for more than 25 years providing humanitarian relief in Iraq and has spoken in the past of the country's predicament.

Shortly before the conflict in 2003, Mrs Hassan warned MPs that the country could face a humanitarian catastrophe if the war went ahead.

The Foreign Office said its embassy in Baghdad was urgently trying to establish what had happened and consular officials were in touch with Mrs Hassan's next of kin.

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