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Iraq Transition

American hostage pleads for negotiations

Abductee taken Monday in Iraq is executive from Indiana

Al-Jazeera broadcast video of men pointing weapons at a hostage identified as American Jeffrey Ake.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An Indiana businessman whose firm works in Iraq was shown Wednesday in an insurgent video, surrounded by masked militants as he asked his family and friends to urge the United States to negotiate with the "Iraqi national resistance."

The video of Jeffrey Ake appeared on the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera. The video showed Ake sitting behind a desk while three militants stood nearby, their weapons pointed at him.

He was holding his U.S. passport and his Indiana driver's license in his left hand. In his other hand, he held a photograph, apparently a family portrait, showing him along with a woman and three children.

"I ask my family and friends to demonstrate and speak directly to the American government to open discussions with the -- with the Iraqi national resistance," he said.

Ake's video was broadcast during another day of deadly attacks in Iraq, including a blast near the northern city of Kirkuk that killed 12 Iraqi security guards trying to defuse a roadside bomb. (Full story)

Ake was kidnapped Monday at a construction site in Baghdad, but his name was not made public until the Al-Jazeera report Wednesday.

Ake is president and chief executive officer of Equipment Express, a company in the northwestern Indiana community of Rolling Prairie that makes machinery for packaging liquids.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States is "thoroughly engaged with the Iraqis and with others" to free the hostage.

"We do not negotiate with terrorists," she said, citing long-standing U.S. policy, but said the country is "working very, very hard to try to secure the safety of the American."

Outside Ake's residence in LaPorte, Indiana, a yellow ribbon was tied around a tree and a U.S. flag was flying. Police stationed at the house helped keep a gathering crowd of reporters away from the family.

David Gariepy, the police chief in LaPorte, said the FBI has advised family members and employees not to talk to the media, out of concern for the hostage's safety and security.

Company officials wouldn't talk when asked about the abduction and the news footage.

"I was told to say 'No comment,'" said a woman who answered the Equipment Express phone.

The news spread, however, after Ake's image was broadcast on Web sites and television.

"It makes you take notice when something like that happens," one resident said. "It really shakes you up a little bit."

City officials and police officers in LaPorte confirmed that Ake is well-known in the region, and local newspapers are publishing reports about him.

An article in the LaPorte Herald-Argus newspaper said, "Ake was in Iraq to construct integrated systems that will provide water bottles to be sold in Baghdad as part of the rebuilding effort in that country."

A State Department official said authorities have contacted Ake's wife, Liliana, but that she does not want information about her husband to be released to the public.

The State Department official said the United States does not know who took Ake.

CNN's Octavia Nasr, Kevin Flower, Keith Oppenheim and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.

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