A convert to Islam and a fluent Arabic speaker, Osthoff had lived in Iraq for over a decade, and was at one time married to an Iraqi. Archeology is a classic intelligence cover: T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) posed as an archeologist in the Middle East in the early part of the last century. But archeology is Osthoff's real profession. One Washington-based German source said Osthoff had been working on arranging a rendezvous with an al-Qaida member on behalf of a German intelligence agent in Iraq. Whether the meeting ever took place has not been revealed, but another source in Berlin, reached by telephone, said experts believed that the kidnapping may have been the work of a rival group, possibly within the same organization.The story speculates that Osthoff may have planned to meet Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. It doesn't say, however, why the Germans wanted to meet with Zarqawi. But the story does point out that the release of an imprisoned Hezbollah terrorist coincided with Osthoff's safe return.
A day after Osthoff's release, the Germans had quietly freed and sent home to his native Lebanon Mohammed Ali Hamadi, a Hezbollah militant serving a sentence for killing a U.S. Navy diver in a hijacked TWA jetliner in 1985. Berlin officials denied any connection between Osthoff's release and Hamadi's after serving only 19 years of a life sentence. They said Hamadi had qualified for parole and the decision to free him had been taken by the state government in North Rhine Westphalia, where he was being held, not the Federal government. He was captured in Frankfurt in 1987 for his part in hijacking the TWA jetliner and killing the American navy diver, who was a passenger on the plane. The United States requested Hamadi's extradition, but the Germans refused, and instead tried and convicted him.The Germans have a history of quietly letting terrorists go, having released the Black September terrorists who murdered the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.
And then there's the issue of ransom.
But both German sources said the real deal involving Osthoff's release had been the payment of a ransom to her terrorist captors by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The ransom and Hamadi's release could well constitute a double embarrassment for Merkel on her scheduled "maiden" visit to Washington next week. Washington has always opposed pay ransom money on the grounds that it encourages more kidnapping.Apparently the Germans have hit upon a novel strategy for fighting the Global War on Terror: Kidnap one of our citizens and we'll give you cash to fund your cause; if you're really lucky we'll release one of your friends, too.
As Wretchard points out, it will take years before the truth about Osthoff is revealed. But one can't help but think that the bare outline reported by UPI pretty much conforms to German policy over the past forty years or so.