Indonesians plead for pair's release

Five days after two Indonesian journalists were last seen in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, friends and family are appealing for their release.

    Meutya Hafid's mother is desperate for her return

    Meutya Hafid, 26, a correspondent for Indonesia's Metro TV, and cameraman Budiyanto, 35, were last seen being pulled out of their hired car in Ramadi by a group of armed men on Tuesday.


    Hafid's mother, Mety Hafid, appealed for her daughter's release after video footage was aired on Aljazeera showing Hafiz and Budiyanto clutching their passports and Metro TV staff cards while flanked by two men carrying rifles.


    "I plead with the captors to release my daughter Meutya. I ask your kind heart as Muslims to free her soon," Hafid said.


    A little-known Iraqi group, calling itself Jaish al-Mujahidin, or Army of Warriors, issued the video demanding Indonesia explain what the journalists were doing in Iraq.


    No ill intent


    "She did not come there with any ill purpose. Please treat her well. She has just lost her father," Hafid said, referring to the death of her husband nine months ago.


    Video images of the journalists
    were broadcast on Friday

    Fitri Hafid, Meutya's older sister, spoke to from their southern Jakarta home.


    "My mother is very worried; she is too emotional to speak at the moment. She still has not gotten over the death of my father nine months ago and now she is struggling to cope with the kidnapping of her youngest child."


    Firtri said seeing her sister on Aljazeera reassured the family that she was still alive, but it also brought fear to the Hafid household as the reality of Meutya's situation became clear. Early reports before the kidnapping was confirmed only said the two journalists were missing.


    Ashura coverage


    "The kidnappers said they just need clarification why the two are in Iraq. So now we are putting our faith in the government to explain to them that they were just there to report on Ashura," Firtri said.


    The Foreign Ministry said a government team would leave for Jordan later on Saturday to coordinate efforts to secure the reporters' release.


    Speaking before the video was released, Mety Hafid said she had reminded her daughter to use her knowledge of the Quran if she was ever taken hostage in Iraq.


    "During the first two weeks in Iraq they covered the result of the election. They travelled to Iraq from Jordan by road and, praise be to Allah, they were safe. She later told me that they were going back to Iraq to report on Ashura," she said.


    Friend and colleague Najwa Shihab, who has known Meutya for four years, said she felt a duty to report on Iraq.


    Meutya was eager to report from
    Iraq, a colleague said 

    "Meutya was very excited about going to Iraq. She is a very determined character, but although she seems tough on the outside I know inside she is not as strong."


    Shihab, also a correspondent at Metro TV, added: "She is nothing but a nice and lovely person who wanted to report on the positive things in Iraq.


    "She wanted to show our Muslim brothers and sisters here what our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters are experiencing in Iraq.


    "We all hope and believe she will be released. Our colleagues' capture will not stop us from travelling to Iraq, as reporting about global events is part of our job as journalists."


    Budiyanto's wife is also appealing for their release.


    US critic


    Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has been a critic of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.


    Budiyanto's wife is concerned
    about her husband's release

    Metro TV, Indonesia's only 24-hour news channel, said Hafid and Budiyanto went to Iraq to cover this week's Ashura ceremony, one of the most important dates for Shia Muslims.


    It is unclear how many Indonesians are working in Iraq, but they are thought to be fewer than nationals from other Asian countries such as the Philippines and India.


    More than 120 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq over the past year and at least a third have been killed.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies



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