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October 26, 2004

Deaf Kids Join Rally In Bid To Free Kidnapped Aid Worker Margaret

From: Glasgow Daily Record - Glasgow,Scotland,UK - Oct 26, 2004

DEAF children helped by kidnapped Margaret Hassan yesterday joined 200 mercy workers at a rally in Baghdad to call for her release.

The protest was staged as the Foreign Office dismissed claims they were attempting to secure the 59-year-old's freedom by using an intermediary thought to have previously made contact with Kenneth Bigley's killers.

Mrs Hassan, left, director of Care International in Iraq, was snatched at gunpoint in Baghdad last Tuesday by an unidentified group.

The British and Iraqi national, who was born in Dublin, has lived in Iraq for 30 years and was seen in a harrowing video last Friday begging for her life.

She urged Prime Minister Tony Blair not to send troops to Baghdad and warned she could meet the same fate as Bigley. A Foreign Office spokesman yesterday confirmed efforts were being made to discover who had snatched Mrs Hassan, but denied the Government had instructed the intermediary to assist.

Protesters gathered outside Care International's Baghdad headquarters yesterday carrying pictures of Mrs Hassan and banners which called for the release of 'Mama Margaret'.

Abbas Mahdi al-Musawi, 25, said: 'We demand the release of this woman who took part and exerted painstaking efforts in reconstructing Ibn al-Qif Hospital for spinal diseases.

'She helped provide the hospital with wheelchairs for the patients and medical aid.'

Nasrat al-Asadi, a teacher at an Iraqi school for the deaf, brought 30 pupils to the demonstration and said: 'They all love her.

'She helped them with hearing aids besides reconstructing the institute.' Mrs Hassan, who is a Moslem and married to an Iraqi, has been the subject of a wave of sympathy across the Islamic world, with many websites filled with messages deploring her kidnapping.

The demonstration followed a sermon on Sunday during which Iraqi Christians prayed for the release of the worker and condemned Mrs Hassan's capture, saying that it did not serve the country's interests. Meanwhile, a seven-year-old Lebanese boy was kidnapped in Iraq and his captors were demanding more than £80,000 for his release, officials said in Beirut yesterday.

Mohammed Hamad was snatched on Saturday while walking home from school in Diyala province east of Baghdad.

His Lebanese father has lived in Iraq for around 30 years.

© 2004 Glasgow Daily Record