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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007, 18:14 GMT
Iraq hostages' families send love
Hostage video

The families and friends of the five Britons kidnapped in Baghdad in May have issued an emotional message of support to their loved ones.

"We love you and miss you very much. We want you to know that in the six months since you were taken, we have not once forgotten you," it says.

The statement, released to the BBC, comes one day after a videotape of the men dated 18 November was released.

The tape threatens to kill one of the men unless UK forces leave Iraq.

The message from the families encourages the men to stay strong and positive in the face of adversity.

'Staying positive'

"You are constantly in our thoughts. While the pain of missing you does not go away we are all staying positive for you and hope that you are looking after yourselves and keeping your spirits up as much as you can under such circumstances," it reads.

The five men - four guards and a computer expert - 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.

And we again appeal to those who are holding our loved ones to end the pain we are all suffering and send the men back home to us safely
Families and friends of hostages

The families also appeal directly to the captors to set the men free.

"And we again appeal to those who are holding our loved ones to end the pain we are all suffering and send the men back home to us safely."

The video released by the kidnappers marked a complete change of course for the captors and it has prompted fears that the Britons may have been sold on to a different and more violent group, the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner reports.

While the hostage tape is in the style of Al-Qaeda, it is not believed to be the terror group responsible for these kidnappings because of the Shia rather than Sunni links, he added.

The British government maintains a strict policy of not negotiating directly with kidnappers or paying ransoms.

But in Iraq, where kidnappings are common, there is a multinational team of hostage negotiators based in Baghdad with extensive contacts in the Iraqi underworld that have thus far failed to secure the men's release.

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.

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