Strange Days

Susanne Osthoff was always an unappealing kidnap victim. A German archaeologist, she praised her captors when they released her after 24 days:

Speaking to the Al-Jazeera satellite channel, Susanne Osthoff said her captors told her not to be afraid as her kidnapping was “politically motivated”.
“Do not be afraid. We do not harm women or children and you are a Muslim,” she quoted them as saying. “I was so happy to know that I had not fallen into the hands of criminals.”
“They said we don’t want money … Maybe we want from Germany … hospitals and schools in the Sunni triangle [area northwest of Baghdad], and they would like to get money in the form of humanitarian aid.”
She described her captors as “poor people” and said that she “cannot blame them for kidnapping her, as they cannot enter [Baghdad’s heavily fortified] Green Zone to kidnap Americans.”

How charming. Turns out that the kidnappers did get money, notwithstanding their high-mindedness, as the German government apparently ransomed Ms. Osthoff.
Now the case has gotten even stranger, as it is being reported that some of the ransom money was found on Osthoff’s person after she was freed:

Part of the ransom money alleged to have been paid by the German government to win the freedom of Iraq hostage Susanne Osthoff last month was found on Osthoff after her release, the German magazine Focus said on Saturday.
Without citing its sources, Focus said officials at the German embassy in Baghdad had found several thousand U.S. dollars in the 43-year-old German archaeologist’s clothes when she took a shower at the embassy shortly after being freed.
The serial numbers on the bills matched those used by the government to pay off Osthoff’s kidnappers, the magazine said.

There are several possible explanations for how Osthoff could have wound up with some of the loot, but the most obvious is that the kidnapping was a hoax designed to extort cash from the German government. That’s one of the risks of negotiating ransoms with terrorists.

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