Hostages deal avoided risk of rescue raid

THE BRITISH aid workers freed by Chechen rebels on Sunday were released under a complex deal that may have included the threat of a rescue operation by security forces, it was suggested last night.

Sources in Moscow insisted yesterday that no ransom - official or otherwise - was paid to hostage-takers to ensure the release of Jon James and Camilla Carr, who had been held for 14 months.

There was speculation that security forces in Chechnya had identified the hostage- takers and were preparing a rescue mission. To avoid bloodshed an arrangement was struck - with the Russian media tycoon, Boris Berezovsky, acting as the deal-maker - to release the Britons.

Mr James and Ms Carr yesterday spent their first full day of freedom together after being released by their captors in the early hours of Sunday morning. They remained at a special unit at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, where they had been flown in a private jet chartered by Mr Berezovsky.

More than 36 hours after they were released from 443 days in captivity, details of the deal remain sketchy. It is known the couple were driven to the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia for a rendezvous with Mr Berezovsky.

There had been speculation that Mr Berezovsky, a former minister for the ex-Soviet republics, may have paid a ransom to secure the release. This now appears not to have been the case.

The fact that Mr James, 38, from the Forest of Dean, and Ms Carr, 40, from Ross-on-Wye, were sympathetic to the Chechens' plight may have been a factor in the decision to release them.

Ms Carr's sister, Alexandra Little, said yesterday the couple were now enjoying some time to themselves. "Over the next few days they will make a decision about what they are going to do. At the moment they are just having a rest."

The couple were kidnapped in July 1997 while working with the Centre for Peace-making and Community Development. Although they appeared remarkably well after their release, Ms Little said the next few days could be crucial.

The Foreign Office said the facilities at Brize Norton had been made available to the couple until they felt ready to leave.

Family ties, Review, page 9

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