Moazzam Begg 'offered to help secure Alan Henning's release' and claims he knew who was holding aid worker hostage

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee claims he has helped secure release of hostages held by extremists in the past

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, has claimed he offered to intervene and help free British hostage Alan Henning from Isis militants, but says his offer was refused by the Government.

Mr Begg told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he believed he knew who may have been holding the murdered aid worker and had helped secure the release of hostages from extremists in Syria in the past.

"I intervened by getting some other groups who could pressurise them to release those individuals and I got them released," he said.

"The problem is that the Government in its attempts to demonise and criminalise me simply refused to look at anything to do with what I was about."

He claimed his offer was initially rebuffed by the Foreign Office (FCO) and he was subsequently told he could deliver a message to Isis, also known as the Islamic State, through an intermediary of the Government's choosing but not directly.

On Friday, Isis fighters released a video showing the beheading of British aid worker Mr Henning, the fourth in a series of brutal murders directly in response to US and UK air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Mr Begg said friends of Mr Henning asked if he could help secure his release in December 2013, shortly after the taxi driver from Salford was captured at the Syrian border.

He then approached former FCO minister Alistair Burt to explain that he was going to make contact with people connected to Isis to see if he could secure the release.

However, he says his alleged offer to help was refused and he was arrested a few weeks later, where he was held at Belmarsh Prison in south-east London.

  From prison he said he approached the FCO again through his lawyer to stress that he thought Mr Henning was still alive and to ask if he could deliver a video message to Isis.

Mr Begg claimed that he had to deliver the message personally as he could make a "heartfelt" statement to Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, particularly as he too had been held prisoner by the US.

But the FCO said the message could only be delivered through an intermediary of their choosing.

Henning.jpgHe claimed the militants actually holding the former taxi driver from Salford may have been "much higher up the ladder" than the British man appearing in brutal execution videos who has been dubbed by some "Jihadi John".

Mr Begg said: "I know the people who may have been holding him. […] "I don't know, I have an idea, I have a view that I think that I know who they are. I don't know for sure.

“But what I do know is that the message that I was going to deliver could probably not have been delivered by anybody else because of the language, the terminology, the understanding, the connection that I could have made to that world was very specific and exclusive to me."

A spokesperson for the FCO said: "We have a long standing policy of not commenting on the operational detail of our handling of kidnap cases.  The safety of British nationals is paramount."

SALFORD PAYS TRIBUTE TO ALAN HENNING
ALAN HENNING'S FAMILY 'NUMB WITH GRIEF'

The 46-year-old from Birmingham has recently had seven terror charges against him dropped by prosecutors. His trial was abandoned after “new material” came to light”. He had been awaiting trial on charges connected to the civil war in Syria, including an allegation he attended a terrorism training camp there.

Mr Begg claimed MI5 told him through their respective lawyers that he would "find no hindrance from our side" if he was to travel to Turkey and Syria.

His defence against the charges was that he was involved in training young men to defend civilians against war crimes by the Assad regime in Syria, not in fighting or training terrorists.

Mr Begg was detained at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for just under three years. He was not charged with any offence during his time in custody.

 

Additional reporting by PA