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Kidnapped Britons tape condemned by UK government
 Part of channel(s): Iraq (current event)

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The UK government has condemned a videotape issued by the kidnappers of five British men held captive in Iraq.
A Foreign Office spokesman said the tape would "add to the distress of the men's families and friends".

In the film, dated 18 November, the kidnappers say they will kill one of the men as a "first warning" unless UK forces leave Iraq within 10 days.

The five men were seized on 29 May from Baghdad's finance ministry building by gunmen disguised as police officers.

They are being held by a militia group calling itself the Islamic Shia Resistance in Iraq.

No matter what the cause, hostage-taking can never be justified

Foreign Office spokesman

The tape, which the Foreign Office is studying, is in Arabic and was broadcast on Al-Arabiya television on Tuesday.

The Britons - four guards and a computer expert - were initially taken to a Shia suburb after being seized.

Consular officials had remained in regular contact with the families of the men, the spokesman added.

The case has not featured in the media as much as other kidnappings in Iraq - including those of Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan - because of a Foreign Office request for minimal coverage.

The Foreign Office does not want anything to get in the way of its negotiations, through third parties, to get the men released.

'Withdraw thieves'

In the tape, filmed in front of an "Islamic Shia Resistance in Iraq" flag, one of the men gives his name, says he has been held for 173 days and adds: "I feel we have been forgotten."

In written text shown on the video, the kidnappers say the UK should "withdraw all the thieves and the gangs that they have brought with them to plunder and squander our wealth and resources, and to return what they have stolen".

They warn that, if the UK does not meet its demands, "this hostage will be executed on day number 10 as a first warning, then other details that you will not like will be made public".

The Foreign Office spokesman said: "No matter what the cause, hostage-taking can never be justified.

"We again call on those holding the men to release them unconditionally."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman also condemned the release of the videotape.

"It's our long-established policy not to comment on such footage and we encourage others not to speculate," he added.

"That would be unhelpful and distressing to the families concerned."

'Ordinary men'

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said that, up until now, the five men had essentially been forgotten by the rest of the world because that was the way the Foreign Office had decided to play things.

We miss them so much and want them to come home to us so that our families can be complete again and our children no longer have to endure the pain of missing their fathers

Earlier statement from families

There was a debate going on about whether the tactic was the right one for the situation, he added.

He compared it with the abduction of the BBC's Alan Johnston who, when released, said it had been an enormous comfort for him to follow the progress of the campaign to free him on the radio in his cell in Gaza.

Our correspondent said there was no possibility these men would have such a luxury and added that their families had nothing to keep up their morale other than contact with the Foreign Office.

In September, the families of the five men urged their captors to end their "torment" of being separated from "ordinary family men".

The statement continued: "They are sons, fathers and brothers who were working to support us - their families.

"We miss them so much and want them to come home to us so that our families can be complete again and our children no longer have to endure the pain of missing their fathers."

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Added: Dec-4-2007 
By: bellava
In:
Iraq, News, Middle East
Tags: Kidnapped Britons tape condemned by UK government, Iraq
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