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19 October  
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2004: British aid worker kidnapped in Iraq
A senior British aid worker in Iraq has been kidnapped on her way to work in Iraq.

Margaret Hassan, 59, is married to an Iraqi and has dual Iraqi and British nationality. She was abducted by an unnamed group at about 0730 local time (0430 GMT).

In an interview with the television station al-Jazeera, her husband Tahseen Ali Hassan said she was snatched near the offices of the charity where she works, Care International.

He said two cars had intercepted her, attacked the driver and taken the car to an unknown destination.

His wife had not received any previous threats, he said.

Distressed

The television station later broadcast a video showing Mrs Hassan looking distressed, with her hands tied behind her back.

Pictures of her passport, credit and identity cards were also broadcast.

According to al-Jazeera, an Iraqi armed group said it has captured her, but it did not identify itself or give demands.

Mrs Hassan has lived in Iraq for 30 years, and speaks fluent Arabic with an Iraqi accent.

She has been head of Care International's operations in the country for some 12 years, and is opposed to the UN sanctions against the country.

Tributes

Tributes poured in, praising her extraordinary courage and dedication in the course of her work.

A friend, film-maker Felicity Arbuthnot, said she has "tremendous presence".

"If there is anybody who can build a rapport with whoever these people are, she will," she said.

"She was so loved and everybody was so open with her and this is what makes it so extraordinary."

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

Captive murdered

The chief executive of Care International UK, Geoffrey Dennis, said, "We are not aware of the reasons why [she was taken].

"Obviously we are doing the best we can locally to try to secure her and get her back again."

Care International is one of the largest independent global relief and development organisations in the world.

The capture of Mrs Hassan comes just two weeks after the brutal murder of British contractor Ken Bigley.

Mr Bigley's death by beheading was shown on al-Jazeera television, despite a three-week campaign to secure his release. He was captured from his home along with two Americans, both of whom were also killed.

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Margaret Hassan
Margaret Hassan's career as an aid worker in Iraq spans 25 years



In Context
A second video of Mrs Hassan was shown on al-Jazeera three days later, in which she wept and pleaded for her life.

At least two more videos were sent to the television station, one showing Mrs Hassan calling for Care International to stop its operations in Iraq.

The organisation closed down its offices in Iraq in response to the plea. It has not opened again since.

There were demonstrations in Baghdad calling for Mrs Hassan's release, but to no avail.

On 16 November her family said they believed she was dead after being sent another video apparently showing her murder.

In May 2005, four people were arrested near Baghdad after a raid by Iraqi forces on homes south-east of the city.

Police said they found ID, clothing and a handbag belonging to Mrs Hassan.

Her body has never been found.

Stories From 19 Oct


 
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