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Saturday, December 20, 1997 Published at 20:08 GMT


UK police try to free Chechen hostages
image: [ Camilla Carr and Jon James have not been seen since July ]
Camilla Carr and Jon James have not been seen since July

Two Scotland Yard officers have flown to Chechnya to help negotiate the release of two British aid workers who are being held hostage.

The missing volunteers, Camilla Carr and Jon James, were kidnapped by six masked men in the Chechen capital of Grozny in July, while working for the Centre for Peacemaking and Community Development.

The officers have flown to Nazran, an extremely volatile area on the Chechen border, for talks with Chechen security officials. A Foreign Office spokesman said the two officers would not return home until they had "pursued every lead possible".

He said: "They are liaising with all those involved in the case, and will stay there until they have followed up everything they can." he said.

The visit is not taking place in Grozny itself because the policemen themselves would be at risk from kidnappers, the spokesman added.

Chechnya, a separatist republic in southern Russia, has become a virtual no-go area for foreigners. The British ambassador in Moscow said the visit was being kept deliberately low-key because of the risk to the the policemen.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman confirmed that two Metropolitan Police officers had been liaising with their counterparts in southern Russia, but was not prepared to discuss further details of the negotiations.

Ms Carr and Mr James, who are both experienced aid workers, left for Chechnya in April. There have been no firm reports on their whereabouts since they were seized. Chechen authorities insist that Ms Carr, 39, and Mr James, 37, are alive.

The kidnappers have made no ransom demand, and there has been no progress in finding out what has happened to them. Earlier this month, their families launched a campaign to highlight their plight.

Former Beirut hostages Terry Waite and John McCarthy joined relatives and friends to attend a special service for them at St James's Church, in London's Piccadilly.

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