Cage that held Bigley is found by US forces in Fallujah

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The Independent Online

A cage in which Kenneth Bigley is believed to have been held as a hostage has been found by American forces in Fallujah. It was discovered in one of 20 houses in the city where foreign captives are thought to have been kept by insurgents including a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

A cage in which Kenneth Bigley is believed to have been held as a hostage has been found by American forces in Fallujah. It was discovered in one of 20 houses in the city where foreign captives are thought to have been kept by insurgents including a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The chicken-wire cage, 7ft high and 4ft deep, was seen in a video released by Zarqawi's group in which Mr Bigley, in chains, pleaded for his life.

The walls of the room were bloodstained with Arabic writing and what appeared to be a fingerprint in dried blood. Mr Bigley was later beheaded but it is not clear whether that happened at the same house. There had been reports the murder took place in the town of Latifiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad.

According to the US military, a Iraqi civilian, who was taken prisoner by Zarqawi's group but later released, said he had heard the voices of at least three other hostages in a neighbouring room, including one he believes was that of Mr Bigley.

The British building contractor was kidnapped from home in Baghdad in September along with two American colleagues, Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong, who were also decapitated.

US forces say troops had taken away handcuffs, shackles, bayonets and knives, including one said to feature in beheading videos, from the houses. They will be used forensic analysis including DNA testing. In one of the buildings, hostages are said to have been tortured and interrogated in an alcove underneath a staircase, with nails sticking out of bloodstained walls, An US intelligence officer, Major Jim West, said "Murder and torture took place in these houses. Hostages have been found chained to walls."

Meanwhile, a journalist with the US television channel NBC, who filmed an US marine shooting dead an injured prisoner in a mosque, said there was no apparent sudden movement from the prisoner before he was killed.

Kevin Sites said the marine became apologetic once he realised the shooting had been filmed, saying " I didn't know, sir, I didn't know." Sites wrote in his website: "Through my viewfinder I can see him [the marine] raise the muzzle of his rifle in the direction of the wounded Iraqi. There are no sudden movements, no reaching or lunging. However, the marine could legitimately believe the man poses some kind of danger. Maybe he is going to cover him while another marine searches for weapons. Instead, he pulls the trigger. There is a small splatter against the back wall and the man's leg slumps down.

"I was not watching from a hundred feet away. I was in the same room. Aside from breathing, I did not observe any movement at all. I can't know what was in the mind of the marine. He is the only one who does."

Sites said he considered destroying the tape of the killing, rather than sharing it with the media pool. "I considered not feeding the tape to the pool -- or even, for a moment, destroying it. But that thought created the same pit in my stomach that witnessing the shooting had ... I would be faced with the fact that I had betrayed truth as well as a life supposedly spent in pursuit of it."

Violence continued across Iraq yesterday with the assassination of a leading Sunni cleric, and bombs and rocket attacks in several cities, including Baghdad.

Sheikh Faidh Mohammed Amin al-Faidhi, a leading member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, was shot dead by gunmen in his home town of Mosul. Islamic activists blamed "agents of America" for the killing.

The assassination comes days after US and Iraqi government forces raided the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad -- one of the most revered sites for Sunni Muslims - with three people dying in clashes inside.

The raid spawned days of bombings and street battles in Baghdad which were continuing yesterday with attacks on Iraqi police patrols in west Baghdad. Iyad Allawi, Iraq's interim Prime Minister, has ordered an inquiry into the Abu Hanifa raid.

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