Two German hostages held in Iraq appeared in video

Two German hostages held in Iraq appeared in a video aired by al Jazeera television on Friday and urged their government to help secure their release, while the fate of a kidnapped U.S. journalist remained unknown. The two German engineers were shown with gunmen in the background, a chilling scene that has become familiar since Muslim militant groups began seizing foreigners to make political demands.

Their voices could not be heard, but Jazeera said "the recording shows the two men urging their government to help secure their release." German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier swiftly appealed to the kidnappers to free the men and promised Berlin would not do anything rash that would endanger their lives.

"The German government will do everything it can to free the two men," he told reporters in Berlin, describing the tape as "devastating." Jazeera said the tape was received from a group calling itself the Brigade of Ansar al-Tawheed Wa-Sunna, which did not make any demands through the recording.

The video was aired a day after U.S. forces freed five Iraqi women detainees, in a case that has been linked to the high- profile kidnapping of American journalist Jill Carroll. Authorities have insisted the release of the five women, who were held as terrorism suspects, was pre-planned and not connected to demands made by Carroll's kidnappers.

They have threatened to kill her unless all women prisoners are released, and set a 72-hour deadline in a video aired on January 17. Four women are still in U.S. custody.

A U.S. embassy spokesman said he had heard of no new developments on Carroll, a freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor abducted by gunmen in Baghdad on January 7, reports Reuters. I.L.

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