Sobbing and clasping her hands together in prayer, kidnapped Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena appeared on a new video Wednesday pleading for her life and calling on U.S.-led troops to pull out of Iraq.
“You must end the occupation, it’s the only way we can get out of this situation,” Sgrena said in the videotape, obtained by Associated Press Television News.
Rocking back and forth, Sgrena appeared alone in the brief footage, only her shadow visible on a white background behind her. In the upper left corner of the image, the words “Mujahedeen Without Borders” appeared in digital red Arabic script.
“I ask the Italian government, the Italian people struggling against the occupation, I ask my husband, please, help me,” Sgrena said in French. “You must do all you can to end the occupation. I’m counting on you, you can help me.”
The 56-year-old reporter for the communist daily Il Manifesto was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in a hail of gunfire on Feb. 4 near Baghdad University.
Since then, conflicting claims about her case have appeared on Islamic militant Web sites. One said she had been killed, another said she would soon be released, and yet another said her fate depended on whether Italy would quickly withdraw troops from Iraq. The Italian Foreign Ministry has said it has doubts about all such Web statements.
'Nobody should come to Iraq'
In the APTN footage, Sgrena spoke in both Italian and French and wore a light green jacket and shirt. She appeared in good health, but looked tired and was clearly anxious, locking her fingers together and shaking her hands as if begging.
At one point, her eyes watering as she struggled to recite her message, she waved the camera to stop.
“Nobody should come to Iraq at this time,” she said. “Not even journalists. Nobody.”
Last week, Sgrena’s newspaper said it had indications she is alive and that intelligence officials had established indirect contact with the kidnappers.
It is not known who kidnapped the journalist. Italy has said it will not pay a ransom to win her release.
Italian government officials and Sgrena’s colleagues have publicized the journalist’s pacifist convictions in hopes it might help win her release.
Il Manifesto strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. It has criticized Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi’s decision to deploy 3,000 troops in the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq.
More than 190 foreigners have been abducted in Iraq in the past year. At least 13 remain in the hands of their captors, more than 30 were killed and the rest were freed or escaped.
Sgrena is at least the ninth Italian citizen seized in Iraq in recent months.