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Husband: Abduction 'really a shock'

Pleads for release of CARE International director for Iraq


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Hassan is seen in this January 2003 photo taken in New York.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The husband of CARE International's country director for Iraq on Thursday said he was having a hard time understanding why she was abducted two days ago.

"She's not involved in any politics or religion," Tahseen Ali Hassan said at a news conference. "She's serving this organization for over 12 years. It was really a shock to me."

Margaret Hassan, who holds dual British and Iraqi citizenships, is credited with helping the poorest and neediest Iraqis.

Patients at a Baghdad hospital took to the streets Wednesday in protest of her abduction and credited her with helping to rebuild the medical facility last year.

Her husband said he has not been contacted by the kidnappers, has no idea who abducted his wife, and asked for her release.

In the wake of her kidnapping, CARE International suspended its humanitarian operations in Iraq. (Full story)

Margaret Hassan was taken captive early Tuesday. Her captors have given no demands or explanations as to why she was snatched.

Hours after the abduction, Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language TV network, aired a video of Hassan sitting in a room, talking and appearing both tired and anxious. Al-Jazeera said the video was accompanied by a claim of responsibility from an unnamed, armed Iraqi group.

Hassan, who was born in Ireland, is a highly respected humanitarian official in the Middle East.

Tahseen Ali Hassan said his wife was abducted shortly after she arrived at work.

"Two cars intercepted her from front and back," he said. "They attacked her car and pulled out the driver and a companion. Then they took the car and drove away to an unknown location. This is according to what I heard from the people working in her organization," he said.

CARE International has had no international staff in Iraq since November 2003. The organization maintained operations during the start of the Iraq war in March 2003, and sponsors health projects, including water sanitation, to Iraqi citizens.

Margaret Hassan has worked for the charity for more than a decade and has lived in Iraq for 30 years. Her abduction prompted replies from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern.

A CARE International statement said the aid group was "unaware of the motive for the abduction."

Iraqi authorities, in conjunction with the British, are leading the investigation, a U.S. State Department official said. The United States is assisting with the investigation, the official said.

Insurgents have increasingly turned to kidnapping, with some ending in beheadings. Engineer Kenneth Bigley became the first British hostage killed in Iraq earlier this month; his two American colleagues were beheaded last month.


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