U.S.: 'No information' on hostage's fate
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(CNN) -- A U.S. official said Friday that the United States still does not know if anything has happened to Ronald Schulz, an electrician taken hostage in Iraq.
"We have no information that anything happened to him," said the official, who asked not to be named. The official said he is familiar with the details of U.S. attempts to find and free Schulz.
There are six known U.S. hostages in Iraq, according to the State Department, which does not identify the hostages by name.
Schulz's family pleaded Thursday for his safe release, urging his abductors to communicate with the family "to discuss this matter at any time" after postings on the Internet said he had been killed.
Schulz, 40, an electrician who had been working in Iraq, was kidnapped by insurgents around November 25.
Video from a group called the Islamic Army in Iraq surfaced Tuesday showing Schulz sitting on a white plastic chair with his hands apparently tied behind his back.
The group demanded that jailed Islamic Army fighters be released and that compensation be paid to families in Iraq's hard-hit province of Anbar.
"Our family is aware that the Iraqi people have concerns regarding the U.S. government presence in their country. However, murdering Ron will not solve these issues," his sister, Julie Schulz, told reporters in his home state of North Dakota.
"Because Ron's life is in your hands and in order to secure his safe release, for which you are ultimately responsible, my family is willing to receive any communication to discuss this matter at any time. We respectfully request you to reach out to us through any media channel to discuss a safe release."
Several Islamic militant Web sites posted a claim Thursday from the Islamic Army in Iraq that it had killed "the American security consultant for the Housing Ministry," after the United States failed to respond to its demand for the release of Iraqi prisoners.
A similar claim was posted early Friday on a Web site known to be used by the Islamic Army. The claims cannot be independently verified by CNN.
State Department officials said Thursday they were trying to determine if the message is credible.
Julie Schulz said the family has heard no confirmation that her brother is dead.
"We're working on the assumption that he's alive," she said.
Schulz, a former Marine who grew up on a farm around Jamestown, North Dakota, was working in Iraq as an industrial electrician, a job that has previously taken him to the Philippines, China, Vietnam and other countries around the globe.
His sister said it came as a "surprise" this week when the family first learned of his abduction, because they didn't know he was in Iraq.
She added it was "typical" of her younger brother, who had recently moved to Alaska, not to tell the family when he went overseas.
She last spoke with him two months ago. She said she immediately knew it was her brother when she saw the hostage video earlier this week.
"It's just been a roller coaster. We've just been trying to take things as it comes," she said.
Schulz is the second American known to have been kidnapped in Iraq in recent weeks. The other American, Tom Fox, was abducted with three other Christian aid workers.
The group claiming responsibility for the kidnapping of Fox and the other three workers extended its deadline for their execution to Saturday. (Full story)
The State Department said Thursday that another American contractor working for the U.S. government was killed Wednesday night outside the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
U.S. officials said it was not a hostage situation and the victim was not Schulz.
There was no word on the status of a German aid worker and a French engineer, who have also been kidnapped
CNN's Elise Labott and Arwa Damon contributed to this report.
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