Kidnappers claim British hostage in Iraq has killed himself

July 20, 2008

Kidnappers claim British hostage in Iraq has killed himself
Hala Jaber in Baghdad
The kidnappers of five British hostages seized in Baghdad last year have claimed in a video-taped statement that one of the men has killed himself.

According to the statement, the hostage – named only as Jason – died on May 25, four days before the first anniversary of the abduction.

The claim is made in a video passed to The Sunday Times in Baghdad last week. Another hostage is shown appealing for the British government to hasten the men’s release.

“Physically, I’m not doing well,” he says. “Psychologically, I’m doing a lot worse. I want to see my family again.”

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British officials said there was “no immediate corroboration” of the kidnappers’ claim that Jason was dead.

An intermediary who handed the video to a representative of this newspaper said the hostage had made two previous attempts at suicide. He said proof of death would be provided only if the British government agreed to negotiate.

The hostages, an IT consultant named Peter Moore and four bodyguards, were kidnapped almost 14 months ago from the Iraqi finance ministry by a Shi’ite group. They are seeking the release of nine prisoners in American detention.

Two of the guards are called Jason and the others are named Alan and Alec. Their full names have been withheld at their families’ request.

The video, entitled Intihar – Arabic for suicide – opens with a photograph of a man wearing a football shirt. He is identified as Jason in the statement, which appears on screen in Arabic and is signed, “The Shi’ite Islamic Resistance in Iraq”.

The statement accuses the British government of responding indifferently to messages from the kidnappers and their captives. It claims that despite repeated warnings about the men’s psychological condition, little has been done to end their ordeal.

“This procrastination and foot-dragging and lack of seriousness on the part of the British government has prolonged their psychological deterioration, pushing one of them, Jason, to commit suicide on 25/5/2008,” the statement says.

“He surprised our brethren, who were taking care of him, with his suicide.” The captors say they regret Jason’s death but hold the British government responsible for the hostages’ fate.

Gordon Brown was expected to raise their plight in talks with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, during a visit to Baghdad yesterday.

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said last night the video would cause “deep distress and concern” to the families of all five men. “The government emphasises the humanitarian appeal of the families for the men’s release,” he added.

According to the intermediary, the appeal from one of the hostages for more government action was included in the video to authenticate the opening statement.

The hostage who speaks on camera is Alan, a father of children aged 14 and three, from Scotland. “I would like for the British government to please hurry,” says Alan, who looks pale and anxious. “Please hurry and try and get this resolved as soon as possible.”

Several seconds after his appeal, a caption appears saying “Home 0, Visitors 0”, a possible reference to the stalemate in efforts to secure the captives’ release.

Alan’s wife Roseleen said yesterday she was relieved to have any communication from him after nearly 14 months of separation and worry.

“Our family miss him desperately and really want him to come home soon. I want to ask his captors to release him unharmed.”
- video encodings still in process -