German archaeologist had been working in Mosul since May

A German archaeologist recently kidnapped in Iraq had been working in this northern city since May and was warned by authorities that her stay here is not safe, a local official said Wednesday.

Susanne Osthoff was working on the renovation of the historical Tutunji House in the central neighborhood of Sirjkhanah, said Muzahem Mahmoud al-Zawbai, head of antiquities department in the northern province of Ninevah.

Osthoff and her Iraqi driver were seized Friday, and were pictured in a videotape blindfolded on a floor, with militants, one armed with a rocket propelled grenade, standing beside them.

Al-Zawbai said his department sent four letters in recent weeks to the headquarters of Iraqi Antiquities Department, Ninevah's deputy governor and police commander informing them that they could not be responsible for her safety in Mosul.

Meanwhile, a man who knew Osthoff well during her stay in Mosul said the archaeologist was working with an Iraqi assistant who came with her from the Kurdish city of Irbil. He added that the Osthoff, who said she was collecting money from German humanitarian organization, for her work, ran out of cash about 10 days ago.

"She said she will go to Irbil to bring money and come back. She left with her driver and since then we haven't heard from her," the man said on condition that his name is not given for fear from insurgents.

Insurgents have been active in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, in the past two years but the situation slightly improved in recent months, AP reported. V.A.

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