Video shows 'distressed' kidnapped Briton

Last updated at 16:09 19 October 2004

A British-born woman who heads the charity Care International's Iraq operation has been kidnapped in Baghdad, the organisation said today.

Margaret Hassan, an Iraqi national who has lived in the country for 30 years, was abducted at 7.30am.

Footage of Hassan with her hands bound has been shown on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic TV station.

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.

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.

Blair's pledge

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."

A statement from the charity said it was unaware of a motive for the kidnap of its Iraq Country Director. Mrs Hassan is married to an Iraqi.

"As far as we know, Margaret is unharmed," it said.

"She has been providing humanitarian relief to the people of Iraq in a professional career spanning more than 25 years.

"Needless to say, we are doing whatever we can to secure her release.

"But equally, it would be unhelpful for us to comment further at this time. Our overwhelming concern must be for Margaret's safety."

'Thoughts go out to her'

Foreign Secretary Mr Straw, said: "I'm very concerned by the reported kidnap of Margaret Hassan, the Iraq country director of Care International.

"Margaret Hassan is someone who has spent 30 years working in Iraq for the benefit of its people.

"Our embassy in Baghdad is in touch with Care International in Baghdad and I'm being kept closely informed of any development."

Mr Straw, speaking at the Foreign Office, after routine talks with his German counterpart, went on: "Meanwhile, our thoughts and prayers go out to her, her family and her colleagues at what is a very anxious time."