Hostage ordeal ends for German woman

Berlin - A German woman held hostage in Iraq since early February has been freed but her son remains in the hands of the kidnappers, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Wednesday.

"Hannelore Krause's hostage ordeal has come to an end after 155 days. We are relieved and share in the joy of the family," Steinmeier told reporters in Berlin.

But he added: "The dire uncertainty about her son, who is still in captivity, remains."

Steinmeier said Krause, who is in her sixties, was released on Tuesday. She was taken hostage in Baghdad on February 6 with her 20-year-old son Sinan.

A militant Islamist group in Iraq called the Kataeb Siham al-Haq (Righteous Arrows Battalions) in March threatened to execute both mother and son within 10 days unless Germany pulled its soldiers out of Afghanistan.

They later issued another ultimatum with the same demand and released a video in April in which Krause was shown crying, begging for help and saying she longed to be reunited with her husband.

Krause is married to an Iraqi doctor and has lived in Baghdad for a long time. Her son is employed at the Iraqi foreign ministry.

The German government insisted throughout the hostage drama that it would not withdraw its soldiers from Afghanistan, with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Berlin will "not be blackmailed by people who are terrorists".

Germany has nearly 3 000 troops in northern Afghanistan as part of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force.

The German media has reported that the government failed to make contact with the kidnappers after they threatened to execute the hostages.

A German archaeologist was held hostage in Iraq for three weeks in late 2005, and two German engineers were kidnapped in January 2006 and held for three and half months before they were released unharmed.

Berlin firmly denied reports that it paid ransoms for the hostages' release.

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