Page last updated at 21:48 GMT, Saturday, 21 June 2008 22:48 UK

British hostages 'alive' in Iraq

Mowaffak al-Rubai'e talks about the hostages

Five British hostages who were seized in Baghdad more than a year ago are still alive, Iraq's most senior security official believes.

Mowaffak al-Rubai'e told the BBC: "We have a very good, strong intelligence telling us they are alive and we roughly know the area where they are.

"But we don't want to be aggressive in our approach, not to risk their lives."

Armed militants seized the men - a computer expert and four guards - at Iraq's Ministry of Finance in May 2007.

One of them 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.

I ask them to consider messages that are being passed to them from many sources asking for mercy and compassion
The Right Reverend Michael Lewis

Mr al-Rubai'e was speaking after a visit by a senior Anglican churchman, who appealed for the men to be freed for the sake of their families.

The Right Reverend Michael Lewis made his first visit to Baghdad, which is included in his diocese.

He did not go specifically to seek the hostages' release, but met senior religious and political figures including Mr al-Rabai'e and Ayatollah Hussain Sadr, cousin of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

'Show mercy'

The bishop made an appeal for the release: "It can be an appeal that remembers the families of the five who are held and I make that appeal.

"I ask them to consider messages that are being passed to them from many sources asking for mercy and compassion."

Since the abduction 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 which warned one hostage would be killed unless British troops withdrew from Iraq.

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

One of the men, who identified himself as Jason, was seen to say in the clip 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.

Meanwhile the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, took what was seen as an unusual step earlier this month, of recording a direct video appeal to the kidnappers.


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