Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 17:14 UK

Iraq abduction anniversary appeal

Friends and relatives speak about the hostages

The families of five British men being held hostage in Iraq for a year have made a joint appeal for their release.

The civilian contractors were kidnapped by armed militants at the Iraqi Ministry of Finance in Baghdad.

Some of their friends and relatives marked the first anniversary of their capture by doing an interview with the BBC's Frank Gardner.

Britain's ambassador to Iraq also urged the hostage-takers to free their captives and appealed for information.

In the BBC interview the friends and relations were identified only by their first names. One of them, Lisette, made a plea on behalf of her brother Jason.

Please, please release my brother, he's a father, a son, and a brother to myself
Sister of kidnapped Briton

She said: "Give him back, let him come home to his family.

"We really miss him, there's not a day, or a minute or anything that goes by without us thinking about Jason. We really want him home."

'It will destroy you'

Colin, the father of another hostage, Alec, is still hoping for a peaceful outcome.

He said: "Well we've got to believe that the outcome's going to be positive. And we do believe that. I think that the initial shock - the first week - was a complete blank.

"When the reality sets in, that it's actually your son, things pale into insignificance for the first three days, shell shock.

"As things develop you sort of live with it, although you never completely get used to it, you've got to live with it, otherwise it will destroy you."

Jan, a friend of a third hostage who is also called Jason, recalled her favourite memories of her friend.

She said: "I remember when his daughter was born, just seeing the look on his face.

"I'll never forget that as long as I live, when his only daughter was born."

And Caroline, the sister-in-law of another hostage, Alan, described him as someone with "a very vibrant personality", who loved motor biking and sky diving.

Hostage videos

In a separate interview with BBC Scotland, Dennis, the father of Alan, spoke of the impact the ordeal was having on his son's children.

He said: "They keep asking when their dad is coming home, and I wish we had an answer but we don't, we just keep praying it is going to happen and that these people have some kindness in their hearts and let them go."

In an emotional appeal to the kidnappers, he added: "Please, I'm begging you, let them go. That is all I am asking."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office says sensitive negotiations for the men's release are going on behind the scenes.

It has been a long and extremely difficult year for these men's families, who only wish to have their loved ones back home
Christopher Prentice, British ambassador

But earlier this month, the father of one of the captives accused the government of not keeping the families fully informed.

In a video message, Christopher Prentice, Britain's ambassador to Iraq, insisted the government was committed to working for the release of the hostages and urged anyone with information about their whereabouts to come forward.

"It has been a long and extremely difficult year for these men's families, who only wish to have their loved ones back home, safe from their ordeal," he said.

"I appeal again to those responsible to release these men in order that they may return home."

One of the hostages has been named as IT consultant Peter Moore, from Lincoln, who was working for Bearingpoint, an American management consultancy.

The other four men, who were employed by a security firm to guard Mr Moore, have not been officially identified

Over the past 12 months the kidnappers, calling themselves the Islamic Shiite Resistance in Iraq, have released two videos of the captives.

In December, a film was broadcast on Dubai-based TV station Al-Arabiya warning one hostage would be killed unless British troops were withdrawn from Iraq.

Media blackout

One of the men, who said his name was Jason, was shown in the clip complaining that the kidnapped men felt they had been "forgotten".

A second video, broadcast by Al-Arabiya in February, showed Mr Moore asking Prime Minister Gordon Brown to free nine Iraqis in exchange for the Britons' release.

The threat to kill the hostage was apparently not carried out.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, took the unusual step of recording a direct video appeal to the kidnappers earlier this month.

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, made in keeping with the wishes of the men's families.

The kidnappers had asked for a media blackout and the Foreign Office said it did not want anything to get in the way of its negotiations, through third parties, to get the men released.




SEE ALSO
Iraq hostage families make appeal
06 Sep 07 |  Middle East
Five Britons abducted in Baghdad
29 May 07 |  Middle East

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