The deadline set by the Iraqi kidnappers of two German engineers expires but there is still no word of their fate. As the time ticked away, the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier made a direct appeal: “I appeal to the kidnappers: take into account the familis’ distress. Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich were in Iraq to contribute to the improvement of the lifestyles of the people of Iraq. Chancellor Merkel and I are appealing to you – also in the name of all Germans – to release Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich unharmed.”At the crisis centre in Germany, family and friends are aware that no recent contact had been made with the kidnappers.It was last Tuesday when the two men’s captors threatened to kill them unless Berlin ended its co-operation with Iraq. The current fury in the Islamic world over controversial cartoons could complicate attempts to free the men. The two were abducted on 24 January outside their workplace in the town of Baiji.Last year a German archeologist who had been held in Iraq for three weeks was eventally released.