WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) — Susanne Osthoff, the German archeologist kidnapped by Iraqi gunmen on Nov. 25 and released before Christmas was connected with her country’s intelligence service, the BND, and had helped arrange a meeting with a top member of the terrorist organization al-Qaida, possibly Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi himself, according to well informed German sources Sunday.
Great. Why did they want to meet with Zarqawi? Most likely to ask him “What do you want?” or “What can we give you that will pacify you?” Which questions, of course, stem from an utter unwillingness or inability to understand the jihad ideology.
The sources confirmed German press reports that the 43-year-old woman had worked for the BND in Iraq on a freelance basis, and had for some time even stayed in a German intelligence safe house in Baghdad.
A convert to Islam and a fluent Arabic speaker, Osthoff had lived in Iraq for over a decade, and was at one time married to an Iraqi. Archeology is a classic intelligence cover: T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) posed as an archeologist in the Middle East in the early part of the last century. But archeology is Osthoff’s real profession. One Washington-based German source said Osthoff had been working on arranging a rendezvous with an al-Qaida member on behalf of a German intelligence agent in Iraq. Whether the meeting ever took place has not been revealed, but another source in Berlin, reached by telephone, said experts believed that the kidnapping may have been the work of a rival group, possibly within the same organization.
A day after Osthoff’s release, the Germans had quietly freed and sent home to his native Lebanon Mohammed Ali Hamadi, a Hezbollah militant serving a sentence for killing a U.S. Navy diver in a hijacked TWA jetliner in 1985. Berlin officials denied any connection between Osthoff’s release and Hamadi’s after serving only 19 years of a life sentence. They said Hamadi had qualified for parole and the decision to free him had been taken by the state government in North Rhine Westphalia, where he was being held, not the Federal government.
Yes, yes, of course. But it gets even worse:
He was captured in Frankfurt in 1987 for his part in hijacking the TWA jetliner and killing the American navy diver, who was a passenger on the plane. The United States requested Hamadi’s extradition, but the Germans refused, and instead tried and convicted him.
But both German sources said the real deal involving Osthoff’s release had been the payment of a ransom to her terrorist captors by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The ransom and Hamadi’s release could well constitute a double embarrassment for Merkel on her scheduled “maiden” visit to Washington next week. Washington has always opposed pay ransom money on the grounds that it encourages more kidnapping.
Make that Angela “Aethelred” Merkel. And remember: she was supposed to be the hardline German candidate.