Al Qaeda group claims German citizen kidnap

DUBAI Sat Mar 24, 2012 2:02pm EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - A group claiming to be al Qaeda's north African wing said it had kidnapped a German man and demanded the release of a Muslim woman imprisoned in Germany in exchange for his freedom.

In a statement posted on Islamist Internet forums, the group, which called itself al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), named its German hostage as Edgar Fritz Raupach, without saying where he had been seized or where he was being held.

A German citizen was kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria's second city of Kano earlier this year, but the German foreign office refused to confirm whether the two cases were related.

A Nigerian security source said he had received confirmation from German authorities that the man abducted in January was Raupach.

"We inform you that your citizen Edgar Fritz Raupach is held captive by the mujahideen of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," said the group, adding it would let Raupach go if the German authorities released a Muslim woman from jail.

"We demand that you release the sister Umm Saifullah al-Ansariya from prison and compensate her financially for the damages she faced due to your injustices ... And in exchange for that we will release your citizen."

The group also referred to the woman as Filiz Gelowicz. German media reports said Gelowicz was the wife of one of the so-called "Sauerland bombers", a group that plotted to attack U.S. targets in Germany.

Gelowicz was sentenced by a Berlin court last March to two and a half years behind bars for helping her husband by collecting money and spreading propaganda on the internet.

There was no way of verifying the authenticity of the statement, which came with a video of a man who identified himself as Raupach asking the German government to save his life. Flanking him were two masked men carrying rifles.

Germany's foreign office said it was examining the video and working on the case of the hostage.

Statements by groups saying they are kidnappers linked to al Qaeda are difficult to verify.

A British and an Italian hostage, who were killed in Nigeria this month, had appeared blindfolded in a video that said they were being held by al Qaeda. But the two men in were later found northwest Nigeria, and said security sources said they had been held by a faction of Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram.

Some Boko Haram members are known to have received weapons and training from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, but security experts say the groups still have separate command structures.

(Reporting by Isabel Coles, Joe Brock in Abuja and Alexandra Hudson in Berlin; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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