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Brown demands release of British hostages in Iraq


London : British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Sunday demanded the “immediate and unconditional” release of British hostages in Iraq, after one of the five Britons kidnapped more than a year ago was reported to have committed suicide.

Earlier Sunday, British weekly the Sunday Times reported receiving a video claiming that the hostage killed himself May 24, and showing another hostage calling on British authorities to do more to free them.

The British Foreign Ministry however said there was no independent confirmation of the hostage’s death.

The British prime minister said efforts to free the five men were moving forward, and he brought up the issue of the hostages to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during his visit to Baghdad yesterday.

In a statement, Brown said “clearly this is a very distressing development. We are taking this very seriously. There are many people working behind the scenes trying to find a solution.”

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband also condemned the kidnappings and urged the hostage-takers to release the hostages for the sake of the men’s families.

The five men, information technology specialist Peter Moore and four body guards, were kidnapped from the Iraqi finance ministry premises May 29, 2007 allegedly by
Shia militiamen.

A statement accompanying the video from a group calling itself the Shia Islamic Resistance in Iraq accused Britain of not responding to messages from captives and their kidnappers.

“This procrastination and foot-dragging and lack of seriousness on the part of the British government has prolonged (the hostages’) psychological deterioration, pushing one of them, Jason, to commit suicide,” the statement said.

The hostage appearing on the video, identified as Alan, said “physically, I’m not doing well. Psychological, I’m doing a lot worse. I want to see my family again.”