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French Reporter Held Hostage Makes Video Appeal for Help

Lisa Bryant

Two months after French reporter Florence Aubenas disappeared in Baghdad, a video has been released showing her pleading for help.

The video distributed to foreign press agencies in Iraq is the first public confirmation that French journalist Florence Aubenas was still alive, after disappearing in Baghdad on January 5.

"My name is Florence Aubenas," Ms. Aubenas says in the video, which is undated. "I am French. I am a journalist." Ms. Aubenas, who works for France's leftist Liberation newspaper, also says in the video that she is in poor health.

Images of the video, broadcast by the French and international media, show her wearing black pants and a gray sweatshirt and sitting on a floor, clutching her knees to her chest.

Ms. Aubenas also makes a special plea to French lawmaker Didier Julia: "Help me, Mr. Julia. Help me," she says. "It is very urgent."

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier says the government had shown an apparently separate video of Ms. Aubenas to her family last week.

Mr. Barnier said French authorities needed to analyze the chronology of Ms. Aubenas videotaped appeals. He said Mr. Julia had told French authorities he was at their disposal. The priority, the foreign minister said, was to secure the release of Ms. Aubenas and of her interpreter, Hussein Hanoun.

More than 130 foreigners have been held hostage in Iraq during the past 18 months. Many have been released, including French reporters Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot.

But others have been killed, including an Italian reporter. Another Italian journalist is still a hostage.

No group appears to have claimed responsibility for Ms. Aubenas capture, or made demands for her release. Liberation's top editor, Serge July, told Frances LCI TV that many other questions remain.

Mr. July said the new video shows Ms. Aubenas is alive, even if she is suffering. But he said there are many other questions, including the fate of her interpreter.

That Ms. Aubenas directed her appeal to Mr. Julia is also puzzling. The French lawmaker was widely criticized for a botched mission to rescue Mr. Chesnot and Mr. Malbrunot. An Iraqi terrorist group released the two in December.

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