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Middle east Europe

Two British hostages feared dead

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-20

Iraqi authorities handed to British officials two bodies feared to be those of British hostages abducted in Baghdad in May 2007, said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. According to the minister, three other hostages are in "grave danger".

AFP - Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Saturday that two bodies feared to be those of British hostages had been handed over to British authorities in Iraq.

Miliband said although there was no immediate confirmation of the identity of the bodies the government's thoughts were with the families of five British hostages taken captive in Baghdad in May 2007.

In Baghdad, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told AFP that while the bodies were believed to be those of the hostages Iraq did not have any information about their identities.

Miliband said forensic tests were under way to establish the identities of the bodies and how they died.

"As would be the case with any development of this kind, they will fear the worst for their loved ones," he said, of the families.

"This is a terrible moment of uncertainty and fear for them," Miliband added.

Asked if he was surprised by the news, Miliband said: "This is a very distressing development.

"We have never speculated on the outcome of this case although we have been working intensively on it, so the overriding feeling today is one of deep sadness and fear."

The minister said the British government reiterated its call for the "immediate safe release of all the remaining hostages" but he accepted that the threat to the men "remains very high indeed."

"Hostage-taking is never justified in any cause. Today's terrible news underlines the gravity of the crimes associated with it," the Foreign Secretary said.

Miliband said the Iraqi authorities had handed the bodies over to British officials late on Friday.

Sky News television reported that the bodies were several months old.

Dabbagh told AFP that "the kidnappers delivered the bodies directly to the British Embassy in Baghdad yesterday (Friday).

"They are suspected to be the hostages but we don't have the proof until the British confirm their identities. We are not part of the deal, but as the Iraqi government, we encourage all efforts to settle this issue."

Dabbagh did not elaborate on whether a deal had been struck for the hostages' bodies, weeks after an Iraqi militant whose group was suspected of kidnapping the men was freed from a US prison.

The five missing men -- an IT consultant and his four bodyguards -- were abducted from the Iraqi finance ministry in Baghdad on May 29, 2007.

The Foreign Office said in March that the group holding them had sent a video featuring one of the captives to the British embassy in Baghdad.

The video was not broadcast, but reports said it showed IT consultant Peter Moore saying the men were being treated well.

Another video, broadcast on Dubai-based TV station Al-Arabiya, warned a hostage would be killed unless British troops pulled out of Iraq.

Moore was working for US management consultancy Bearingpoint when he was kidnapped.

His guards were employed by a company called Gardaworld.

Little information has been released about them, but it is believed they are called Alan, Jason, Alec and Jason.
 

Date created : 2009-06-20

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