Foreign diplomatic efforts result in failure

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The Independent Online

The drama surrounding the fate of Kenneth Bigley highlights the different tactics taken by countries faced with citizens kidnapped in Iraq. More than 100 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq over the past six months, with at least 30 killed, prompting governments to focus increasingly on strategies dealing with hostage scenarios.

The drama surrounding the fate of Kenneth Bigley highlights the different tactics taken by countries faced with citizens kidnapped in Iraq. More than 100 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq over the past six months, with at least 30 killed, prompting governments to focus increasingly on strategies dealing with hostage scenarios.

While the methods employed to secure the release of hostages have varied, the results of those who have failed to comply with the demands of the kidnappers have invariably been unsuccessful.

Two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, were kidnapped last month, despite the fact that France has no troops to withdraw from Iraq. Instead, the gunmen demanded that France should drop its ban on schoolgirls wearing Muslim headscarves. Despite refusing to reverse the ban, a high-profile diplomatic effort was mobilised. There were also reports suggesting a £2.8m ransom had been demanded. The fate and whereabouts of the two men remain unknown.

Attempts by the Italian government to get hostages released have been equally fruitless. Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, two Italian aid workers, were seized at gunpoint along with two Iraqi colleagues from their Baghdad office earlier this month. Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, immediately refused the demand to withdraw Italy's 3,000 troops and police from Iraq. Instead, as the Pope led prayers for the pair, he dispatched Franco Frattini, the Foreign Minister, to Iraq.

The government of the Philippines agreed to withdraw its 51 troops in July for the release of lorry driver, Angelo dela Cruz.

Some companies have agreed to leave Iraq in return for the freedom of staff. Yesterday, a Turkish construction firm became the latest company to agree to withdraw in return for the release of 10 staff members. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have changed hands to pay the ransom of kidnap victims from Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon.

The British government has remained as resolute in its refusal to meet the demands of the kidnappers as the US.

There are 220 members of the British special forces ­ SAS and SBS ­ in Iraq at least half of whom are believed to be on standby for a rescue attempt. US and British forces have carried out raids in Baghdad after the kidnapping of Mr Bigley and the two Americans, Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong. However, military sources say these were mainly in the hope of gathering information.

Although the vast bulk of the British forces are based in the south, most of the SAS and SBS are operating alongside American forces in the violent Sunni triangle. Any attempt to extract Mr Bigley will be led by the US.

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