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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 19:46 GMT 20:46 UK
Briton kidnapped in Iraq is named
Kenneth Bigley
Kenneth Bigley's family are 'devastated'
The British civil engineer who was abducted while working in Iraq has been named as Kenneth Bigley, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

Gunmen seized Mr Bigley, and two Americans, on Thursday from a house in Baghdad's Mansour neighbourhood.

Mr Bigley's family are "devastated" by the kidnapping and are pleading for his safe return.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the family, assuring them that all efforts are being made to find him.

Mr Bigley, who is originally from the north west of England, is understood to be 62 and is married with one child.

'Devastated'

In a statement Mr Bigley's family said: "We were devastated to find that Ken had been taken, and we are still struggling to come to terms with what is happening.

"It's hard to understand why Ken would be targeted in this way but we would appeal to those who have taken him to please return him safely to us."

The kidnapped men, who were employed by Gulf Supplies and Commercial Services - a Middle East-based general services and construction contractor - lived together in the walled-off two-storey home.

The Briton's family added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of his two work colleagues too, who must share our distress.

James Brandon with a black eye

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are liaising with the appropriate authorities and taking steps to resolve the situation."

The US embassy in Iraq named the two kidnapped Americans as Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong but did not give their home towns.

The men are thought to have been bundled into a minivan and driven off.

A car was missing from the house where the men were reportedly taken.

There was no fighting as the hostages were taken and no group has yet claimed responsibility.

We very much hope that the British hostage is released without harm or delay - his family are in our thoughts and in our prayers.
Inayat Bunglawala
Muslim Council of Britain
In August British journalist James Brandon was captured by militants in Basra but released following the apparent intervention of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

After the 20-hour ordeal, Mr Brandon said he feared he would die as he was subjected to mock executions during his captivity.

Fighters waging a 17-month insurgency in Iraq have kidnapped more than 100 foreigners in a bid to destabilise the interim government and drive foreign troops from the country.

The latest kidnappings brings the number currently being held to 19.

It follows the abduction of two female Italian aid workers last week, and two French journalists on 20 August.

Muslim condemnation

British Muslim groups condemned the kidnappings and called for the immediate release of the hostages.

Ahmed al-Sheikh, president of the Muslim Association of Britain, said: "There can be little doubt that this British national has fallen victim, as did citizens of various countries before him, to a situation that is chaotic and incredibly dangerous.

"The Muslim Association of Britain calls on the group that has kidnapped this British citizen to release him immediately without condition."

Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "The taking of innocent civilians as hostages is a deeply regrettable development in the Iraqi struggle against the foreign occupation of their country.

"We very much hope that the British hostage is released without harm or delay - his family are in our thoughts and in our prayers."

But Sheikh Omar Bakri, UK leader of the radical al Muhajiroun group, said he would neither condemn nor condone the abductions.

He said: "I believe the people of Iraq in their own territories have the right to resist by any means they believe their own religion allows.

"We are saying that civilian people should not go to the war zone. The Iraqis believe they are foreigners and don't have the right to be there."


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