Arab TV shows video of Briton kidnapped in Iraq

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The Independent Online

One of five Britons kidnapped in Iraq last May has been shown appealing for his release in a video broadcast by an Arab television station.

The al-Arabiya channel aired the footage last night, claiming it was from a group calling itself the Islamic Shia Resistance.

In it, a bearded white man with dark circles around his eyes is seen saying: "My name is Peter Moore. I have been held here for nearly eight months now."

The hostage, who is wearing a black and white tracksuit in the film, then appeals to the Prime Minister to free nine Iraqis to gain the release of the five Britons. "All I want is to leave this place. I tell Gordon Brown the matter is simple: release their prisoners so we can go," he says.

Last night, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office strongly condemned the release of such videos, which it said were "greatly distressing to the families of those involved."

A spokesman said: "We are in close contact with the Iraqi authorities and are doing everything we can to secure a swift release. We ask all those who may be able to influence those holding the five men to make every effort to secure the safety and release of the hostages.

"We again call directly on those holding these men to release them immediately. No matter what the cause, holding hostages is never justified."

It is known that five British nationals – believed to be a management consultant from the US-based company BearingPoint and four bodyguards – were kidnapped on 29 May last year at the Baghdad Finance Ministry by men in police uniforms who were heavily armed but did not fire any shots.

The attackers turned up just before noon at a hall in which a lecture was taking place, shouting "where are the foreigners?" before rounding up the Britons, according to reports. The men were then said to have been driven away in a large convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles towards the Shia enclave of Sadr City.

It is believed that the man named last night as Mr Moore was the management consultant and computer expert, and the other men were his bodyguards, said to be from the Canadian company Garda-World. The Foreign Office is refusing to confirm the names of those kidnapped.

At the time of the abduction, the then prime minister, Tony Blair, said: "We will do everything we possibly can to help".

Last night, CNN said BearingPoint, which is based in Virginia, had confirmed the identity of Mr Moore. "We are all praying for the urgent and safe release of Peter," Betsy Palmer, the company's executive vice-president, told the news network. "They are co-operating fully with the authorities to secure the release of all the hostages."

The footage released last night is not the first of those taken last May. In December, the al-Arabiya channel released a separate video apparently showing the men, one of whom said: "I feel we've been forgotten." In the previous film, another man, who identified himself as Jason, was heard saying: "Today is 18 November. I have been here now for 173 days and I feel we have been forgotten." The man was flanked by two masked gunmen and – as with last night's clip – a banner representing the Shia Islamic Resistance could be seen.

The new footage came with a message from the Islamic Shia Resistance which it said was for the British people. "We address you while we do not address your Government or your Queen, who, had Mr Peter been her son or a member of her family, would not have delayed even one hour [in trying] to free him," it said.

Iraqi officials have speculated that the group is made up of supporters or members of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia. The al-Arabiya TV station is believed to receive significant financial backing from Saudi Arabia.

Seperately last night, a British journalist with the American network CBS and kidnapped on February 10 in Basra, remained in captivity after the recent release of his interpreter.