'Blair will have blood on his hands if terrorists behead my brother'

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair will have "blood on his hands" if Islamist terrorists execute Kenneth Bigley, the British hostage's brother said yesterday.

The Prime Minister was doing too little to secure the release of the kidnapped engineer, Paul Bigley said before he addressed a fringe meeting on the opening day of the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Kenneth Bigley, who has been held by his extremist kidnappers for 10 days, could be freed if Mr Blair put pressure on the US President George Bush to release two female Iraqi prisoners, as the hostage takers have demanded, it was claimed.

Paul Bigley said: "Mr Blair will be the man to blame. He is the man at the top. Even though he is an honest gentleman, and probably a good father, if Ken is killed, Tony Blair will have blood on his hands."

Mr Bigley, who was due to address the Labour Against the War meeting by telephone from his home in the Netherlands, called on the Prime Minister to set a date after the January elections in Iraq for the withdrawal of British troops from the country.

"The situation they have created is a cockpit of terrorism," Mr Bigley said. "The armed forces are part of the problem now, not part of the solution."

His comments came as a London-based Islamist activist who has contacts with groups within Iraq said he had received a message from the kidnappers that Mr Bigley had not been killed.

Yasser al-Serri, the director of the Islamic Observation Centre, said his group issued an appeal to Mr Bigley's kidnappers through mediators in Iraq and received a reply that the Briton was still alive.

Church services were held in Mr Bigley's native Liverpool to pray for his release while in the Blackburn constituency of the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, Muslim demonstrators took to the streets to accuse the Government of not doing enough to secure the release of the Briton.

Ismail Lorgat of the Blackburn Friendship Mission said: "Jack Straw is not doing enough by simply stating that we do not negotiate with terrorists."

"One human being is worth everything. There are words in the Koran: if you kill one human being, it is equivalent to murdering the whole of humanity."

Mr Bigley's 86-year-old mother, Lil, remained in hospital after being taken from her home in Liverpool on Saturday afternoon. Her other son, Philip, was seen in the house with a suitcase yesterday, suggesting her stay in hospital may be extended.