Taped Plea From Abducted Germans

After Friday prayers, over 500 worshippers gather with copies of the holy Quran to denounce cartoons published last year in a Danish newspaper, Friday, Jan. 27, 2006, in Baghdad, Iraq.
Two German engineers abducted this week in northern Iraq appealed to the German government to work for their release in a videotape broadcast Friday by an Arab TV station. It was the first sign of the pair since they were seized three days ago.

The tape showed the two engineers, identified by relatives as Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich, seated on the floor with at least four armed men standing behind them.

The timer shown in the corner of the tape, aired by Al-Jazeera television, indicated it was filmed at 10:08 on Jan. 24, less than two hours after they were abducted in the northern industrial city of Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad.

"The (German) government condemns this cruel kidnapping in the strongest possible terms," Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a video of the two men was aired. "We appeal urgently to the perpetrators to release our two compatriots without delay."

The German hostages were seen speaking but Al-Jazeera did not broadcast any audio and the station did not report any demands beyond the hostages calling for German government intervention to secure their release.

A handwritten black banner was shown on the tape reading: "Supporters of Tawhid and Sunnah Brigades," a previously unknown group. Tawhid is the Arabic word for monotheism and Sunnah refers to the teachings of the prophet Muhammad.

In other developments:

  • The troubled Saddam Hussein trial resumed Sunday with a new judge after a dispute on the court was patched over, though worries remained over whether political interference is threatening the tribunal's independence. The resumption had been delayed for nearly a week when some judges on the five-member panel hearing the trial opposed the appointment of Raouf Abdel-Rahman as the presiding judge.

    A U.S. spokesman says a gun battle broke out at a checkpoint in Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, and three men wearing Iraqi police uniforms inside a car were shot dead. American troops captured a fourth man from the car, but found no police identity documents on the men. The military says two U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday in separate roadside bomb blasts.

  • Violence raged in Baghdad's tense southwestern suburbs as hundreds of police raided homes hunting for insurgents and clashed with over 30 armed men for several hours. Policemen played their locally produced theme song "Where is the terrorist today?" loudly from car speakers raided homes in several suburbs in search of militants, arresting about 60 people.
  • Police found the bullet-riddled body of Hesham Ahmed Mahmoud slumped in his car in western Baghdad, said Dr. Muhannad Jawad of the Yarmouk hospital. Identity cards found among Mahmoud's belongings indicated that he worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military.