Captors don't want to kill me, says Bigley

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The British hostage Kenneth Bigley was today shown shackled and behind bars in a new video in which he claimed his captors do not want to kill him.

The British hostage Kenneth Bigley was today shown shackled and behind bars in a new video in which he claimed his captors do not want to kill him.

The 62-year-old, who appeared to be kneeling inside a cage and was seen weeping, branded Prime Minister Tony Blair a liar on the tape, screened on Arab TV station Al-Jazeera.

He was dressed in an orange jumpsuit - similar to those worn by American prisoners at Guantanamo Bay - and had a metal chain draped around his neck and both his hands and feet bound.

Mr Bigley refers to Mr Blair in the footage and said: "He doesn't care about me. I'm just one, just one person."

The hostage is then seen to break down. He also accuses the PM of doing nothing to secure his release.

His message comes a week after a previous video appeal and raises hopes that he is still alive and could be released.

Mr Bigley's brother Paul said the video further raises hopes after a statement released in the Middle East last night said he would be spared.

He said today: "He looks unwell but he's alive and he's not a broken man."

Paul said the family will be comforted by the fact that he still appears to be alive.

"He is obviously an afraid man and he is worn out. His faculties are all there but he is worn out," said Mr Bigley.

He said his brother's "tenacity" may have been vital in building a dialogue with his captors.

"I think he's built up a sort of rapport with these guys such that they are not exactly having a drink or playing cards together but they are talking sense together and that's the reason why the man's alive," he said.

A spokeswoman for Downing Street said they would not be commenting on the latest video appeal by Mr Bigley.

"It goes without saying that we are in contact with the family," she added.

Al-Jazeera said the tape had been passed on by an anonymous source and the footage has yet to be authenticated.

A spokesman for the channel said: "He is seen in the footage calling Tony Blair a liar and claiming that he has done nothing to help his release.

"Mr Bigley also says that his captors do not want to kill him."

Ken Bigley's elder brother Stan, 67, a retired lorry driver who lives in Wigan, Lancs, said he had only just been told by police of the new video and had not yet seen the footage.

He added: "It gives me hope, it gives us all hope that he is still alive. We are all glad.

"We just hope to see him safely home. Apart from that, there is nothing else to say - I am just waiting for that call."

Paul Bigley said earlier that the communique from the Middle East had also offered the family new hope.

"There has been a communique released from the Arab world which has been translated into English and which I have a copy of and have circulated to the best people I know," he said.

The communique, posted last night on the website Al Qalah.com, claimed that Mr Bigley, from Liverpool, is to be freed imminently but warned others would be kidnapped and beheaded if they failed to withdraw from Iraq.

The message added: "Let his liberation be a clear message to the British people and also an appeal for them to realise the incapacity of their government and its crime in not freeing Iraqi prisoners in exchange for the life of their son."

News of the communique followed Mr Blair's assurance that the Government is attempting to make contact with the Tawhid wal Jihad group.

The Prime Minister said: "The difficulty is that we are trying to make contact with this particular group, because these are outside people, they are not Iraqis ... they are outside terrorist groups, and we are trying to make contact with them and we are doing everything we possibly can."

New footage of Mr Bigley emerged hours after two Italian aid workers were released after being kidnapped in Baghdad.

Italians Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, both 29, arrived home last night after spending three weeks in captivity.

The Italian government has refused to comment on allegations that a ransom of one million dollars was paid.

It was claimed today that French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, seized almost six weeks ago, could also soon be released.

Peter Kilfoyle, the MP for Walton where the Bigley family home is, said: "I think obviously there are mixed reactions to the footage released - joy Ken Bigley is still alive but obvious horror at the conditions he is being held under.

"It is significant that after all this time there may be some way to obtain Ken's release.

"The Americans were killed very quickly, there was no question of any sort of extension period involving that. In the case of Ken Bigley, they have got quite a different course of action."

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, which sent a delegation to Iraq last week calling for Mr Bigley's release, said the video message was a great sign, but added a note of caution.

He said: "This is wonderful news and appears to confirm the messages our delegation received at the weekend.

"I think many Muslims have appealed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to release him unharmed. It is important al-Zaqawi understands any harm inflicted on Mr Bigley is utterly rejected by all British Muslims."

He said the council had posted adverts in Baghdad's two main newspapers calling for Mr Bigley's safe release.

He added: "It is fair to treat the new video with caution because it has not yet been verified. You do not know when it was taped.

"It gives added hope that he is still alive. This video means the efforts to secure his release must not now slow. They must be intensified."

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