Militants linked to kidnapped Britons released from prison

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Around 100 members of a militant group believed to have links to the kidnapping of five Britons in Iraq more than two years ago were released from prison, it was reported.

Computer expert Peter Moore and his four bodyguards were seized at the finance ministry in Baghdad on 29 May 2007 by about 40 armed men wearing police uniforms.

Only Mr Moore, 36, from Lincoln, is still believed to be alive, and negotiations for his release are ongoing.

The body of security guard Alec MacLachlan, 30, of Llanelli, south Wales, was flown home last month.

This followed the handover of the bodies of Jason Swindlehurst, 38, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and Jason Creswell, 39, originally from Glasgow, to the British Embassy in Baghdad in June.

The family of the fourth security guard, Alan McMenemy, from Glasgow, was told by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in July he was "very likely" to have died.

Many of the 97 released detainees are thought be from the Leagues of Righteousness, a militant Shia group believed to have links to their abductors, it was reported.

The kidnappers, calling themselves the Islamic Shiite Resistance in Iraq, have issued several videos featuring the captives and making demands.

In February last year a video broadcast by Dubai-based TV station Al-Arabiya showed a bearded and tired-looking Mr Moore asking Mr Brown to free nine Iraqis in exchange for the British hostages.

A UK embassy spokesman told the BBC: "Anything that achieves a resolution of the hostage crisis is a good thing."

He insisted that no deal had been made with the hostage-takers.