Kidnapped American in Iraq Video Is Business Exec

Man held at gunpoint in video is American small business executive


BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - An Indiana man, scared and clutching his passport to his chest, was shown at gunpoint on a videotape aired by Al-Jazeera television Wednesday, two days after he was kidnapped from a water treatment plant near Baghdad. The station said he pleaded for his life and urged U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq.

In LaPorte, Ind., a yellow ribbon was tied around a tree outside Jeffrey Ake's one-story brick house, and an American flag fluttered on a pole from the home. The U.S. Embassy said the man on the video appeared to be Ake, a contract worker who was kidnapped around noon Monday.

The video came on a day of bloody attacks, as insurgents blew up a fuel tanker in Baghdad, killed 12 policemen in Kirkuk, and drove a car carrying a bomb into a U.S. convoy, killing five Iraqis and wounding four U.S. contract workers on the capital's infamous airport road.

Ake - the 47-year-old president and CEO of Equipment Express, a company that manufacturers bottled water equipment - is the latest of more than 200 foreigners seized in Iraq in the past year.

The Al-Jazeera tape showed a man sitting behind a desk with at least three assailants - two hooded and one off-camera - pointing assault rifles at him. Ake, wearing an open-collar shirt with rolled-up shirt sleeves, was sitting or kneeling behind a wooden desk and holding what appeared to be a photo and a passport.

The station didn't air audio of the video, but said the man asked the U.S. government to begin talks with the Iraqi resistance and save his life. No group claimed responsibility, and there was no way to authenticate the video. Al-Jazeera didn't say how it obtained the tape.

President Bush's press secretary, Scott McClellan, said there would be no negotiating with the kidnappers.

"Any time there is a hostage - an American hostage - it is a high priority for the United States," he said. "Our position is well known when it comes to negotiating. Obviously this is a sensitive matter."

In Indiana, LaPorte Police Chief David Gariepy met with Ake's family and called it "a terrible situation."

"We have to keep them in our thoughts and pray for his safe return," Gariepy said. "It devastates all of us as Americans when someone from our country is involved in something like this."

Gariepy asked for those in the community about 25 miles west of South Bend to "hope and pray and wait."

Ake's company had been working as part of the effort to rebuild Iraq. In 2003, Equipment Express built a machine that filled containers with cooking oil to be used by Iraqis. The company also built a system to provide water bottles to be sold in Baghdad.

Ake is one of at least 14 Americans who have been kidnapped or have gone missing in the past year in Iraq. At least three have been killed. Last April, Nicholas Berg, a 26-year-old businessman from West Chester, Pa., was the first to be kidnapped. He was beheaded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq group.