"Please help me. My health is very bad. I'm very bad psychologically also," an exhausted-looking Aubenas says in the video, broadcast on the Italian channel early on Tuesday.

It is thought to be the first tape of Aubenas to be released and would be the first confirmation that the 43-year-old is alive since her abduction on 5 January.

"My name is Florence Aubenas. I'm French. I'm a journalist with Liberation," she says in English on the undated tape, looking distraught and with her hair bedraggled. She was dressed in a grey sweatshirt and black trousers.

She stared intently at the camera as she held her knees up to her chest in front of a dark red background. 

One-minute tape

Aubenas is thought to have been snatched from her car as she was driving near her hotel in central Baghdad. She was taken along with her driver, Iraqi Husain Hanun al-Saadi.

"Please help me.
My health is very
bad. I'm very bad psychologically also"

Florence Aubenas,
abducted French journalist

Diplomats at the French embassy in Baghdad were not immediately available to comment. 

The one-minute tape was delivered to news organisations in Baghdad. Its authenticity, when and where it was shot, could not be verified.

Aubenas is the third French journalist to be kidnapped in Iraq. Two others, Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot, were freed late last year after nearly four months in captivity. 

Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena was abducted early last month and is still being held. 

US bombing

In a separate incident, a woman and her three children were seriously injured when a US helicopter bombed their house in Bu-Farraj area north of Ramadi city, Aljazeera learned.

The bombing, which severely damaged the house, came after the US military headquarters east of the city had come under mortar attack on Tuesday.

The US military did not immediately comment.

Al-Hilla protest

Also on Tuesday, hundreds of angry Iraqis protested in al-Hilla on Tuesday to demand improved security measures, a day after a devastating car bomb attack in the central city killed 125 people. 

Iraqis of al-Hilla have protested
against poor security conditions

"We have no use for these security services if they cannot prevent attacks," said Ali Muhammad, 30, who lost a relative in the bombing, the deadliest single attack since the US-led invasion nearly two years ago.

Demonstrators carrying banners gathered at the scene of the attack as municipal workers cleared away the debris while security forces stepped up their presence throughout the city, 100km south of Baghdad.

Residents faulted local security officials for their lax attitude. 

"Police only come out after an attack," said Saad Mahdi, a young man who lost his brother in the bombing. 

"Dozens of policemen protect one official, while ordinary
citizens like us are ignored," added Hatim Amir, 45.