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Europe

Two Iraq hostages 'very likely' dead, says Brown

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-30

British PM Gordon Brown confirmed that two of the three hostages still held after a kidnapping in May 2007 in Iraq were "very likely" dead. Brown believes that computer consultant Peter Moore is the only remaining hostage of the group.

AFP - Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday that two hostages from a group of Britons kidnapped two years ago in Baghdad were "very likely" dead.

Brown said he believed one hostage, Peter Moore, was still alive, and reiterated his call for the computer consultant to be released.

Moore and his four security guards were snatched in Baghdad in May 2007. He is now the only one thought still alive as the remains of two guards were handed over to Britain last month.

"I can confirm that on July 20, with great sadness, the government informed two families of those British men kidnapped in Iraq that Alan McMenemy and Alec MacLachlan, two of the three hostages still held, were very likely to be dead," Brown said in a statement.

"This is the worst of news, and my thoughts are with the families, who I hope will be given the privacy they need to deal with their grief.

"I and the entire government are committed to doing everything that we can for the release of Peter Moore, whom we still believe to be alive," Brown said.

Brown condemned the kidnappings and urged those responsible to "give us clarity" on the fates of McMenemy and MacLachlan.

Moore and the four security guards were kidnapped in the Iraqi finance ministry, in an audacious operation by around 40 heavily-armed militants posing as security personnel.

The bodies of two other guards, Jason Swindlehurst, 38, and Jason Creswell, 39, were handed over to the British embassy in Baghdad last month.

In a statement the families of the five hostages said they were "deeply upset and troubled" at the new reports.

"We are all deeply upset and troubled to hear the reports that Alec and Alan have died in the hands of their captors, as well as Jason Swindlehurst and Jason Creswell.

"This is a terrible ordeal for us all. We ask those holding our men for compassion when so many are working hard for reconciliation in Iraq and we continue to pray for the safe return of our men."

Just hours after the statement, two members of the group suspected of kidnapping the Britons were released to their homes, local residents told AFP.

One was escorted to his home by Iraqi soldiers, residents in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad district of Sadr City said.

Residents said another kidnapper had also returned home in the southern port city of Basra.

The Foreign Office in London declined to comment.

An Iraqi militant linked to the group believed to be holding them, the League of the Righteous, was also freed last month, 11 days before the bodies of Swindlehurst and Creswell were handed over.

The Foreign Office then sought to downplay the significance, saying Britain never does deals with kidnappers.

Moore's father Graham said there was still hope for his son -- but reiterated criticism of the way the Foreign Office handled the kidnapping.

For a long time British authorities imposed a media blackout, arguing that publicity could jeopardise the hostages' fate.

"It is just a lottery at the moment as to what happens," he said.

"It is known that the word was that Peter was being treated differently because the others are ex-army and bodyguards and Peter was being treated differently as a civilian.

"At the moment, as things stand, it's all we can hope for."

But he added: "This just proves that the Foreign Office has mishandled it. There were rumours two weeks ago that the two bodyguards had been shot dead.

"Gordon Brown was in Leicester on Saturday but he didn't bother to speak to me. At the moment, we are going on the hope that Peter is alive and we can't really say any more than that."

Moore was working for US management consultancy BearingPoint, while the four guards were employed by Canadian firm GardaWorld, one of the security contractors used by firms to protect their staff in Iraq.

The Foreign Office said in March that the League of the Righteous 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 Moore saying the men were being treated well.

Date created : 2009-07-30

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