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Charity chief kidnapped in Iraq

Hassan appears in video aired by Al-Jazeera TV network.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Care International charity says its chief of operations in Iraq has been kidnapped in Baghdad.

Care International country director Margaret Hassan, who has joint British-Iraqi citizenship, was seized Tuesday morning, the charity's London-based spokeswoman Kate Bulbulian told CNN.

Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language TV network, aired a video of Hassan, who was shown sitting in a room. She was talking and appeared anxious.

It showed close-ups of Hassan's identification cards. The footage showed a visa card in her name, three Care identification cards and an export-import license card.

The anchor said the video was accompanied by a claim of responsibility from an unnamed, armed Iraqi group, but he said the group did not issue demands or name her nationality.

Bulbulian stressed that Care's secretariat was based in Brussels and was an international, independent organization.

"We're very keen to stress that Margaret has spent more than half her life in Iraq," Bulbulian said.

Hassan has been working for the charity for more than a decade and has lived in Iraq for 30 years.

Care, one of the world's largest independent global relief and development organizations, did not confirm the circumstances of the kidnapping or reveal in what sector of Baghdad it occurred.

U.S. help

British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said news of the kidnapping was "a very disturbing development."

"Our thoughts are clearly with her family. She's a long-time resident of Iraq and, as I understand it, somebody who ... has worked all her life for the benefit of the people of Iraq," he told reporters.

"This just demonstrates the depths to which these terrorists will go."

A senior State Department official said the agency was contributing to the investigation into the kidnapping with resources, assets and information.

Iraqi authorities, in conjunction with the British, are leading the probe, the official said.

Care International, which operates in more than 72 countries, is one of the few international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to remain in Iraq.

Most NGOs pulled foreign staff out after two Italian aid workers were kidnapped for three weeks in September.

"We support programs ranging from basic education, mother and child health and sustainable agriculture to relief in times of emergency," said the group, which also specializes in projects helping the urban poor of the developing world.

"With its secretariat in Belgium, CARE International's 11 offices in Europe, Australia, North America, and Japan support projects that benefit almost 30 million people every year."

Engineer Kenneth Bigley became the first British hostage to be killed in Iraq when he was beheaded by his kidnappers -- followers of the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- earlier this month.

Correspondent Karl Penhaul contributed to this report.

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