New demands by kidnappers holding Britons

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The Independent Online

The British Embassy said yesterday it had received a new video showing one of five Britons taken hostage nearly two years ago allegedly by Shiite extremists that the US believes are backed by Iran.

Also Sunday, CNN reported that Turkey's prime minister said he would be receptive to allowing US troops to leave Iraq through Turkish territory if President Barack Obama's administration asks permission.

British Embassy spokesman Sean McColm refused to identify the hostage or say how and when the video was received. He said the video was "clearly a significant development" and that the British government was working for the safe release of all the captives.

The five Britons — information technology consultant Peter Moore and four of his security guards — were seized by heavily armed men in police uniforms in May 2007 from the Finance Ministry compound in central Baghdad.

A British newspaper reported last year that the militia claimed one of the hostages had committed suicide, but that was never confirmed.

The BBC reported Sunday that the hostage in the video is Moore and that he says the five are being treated well. Moore appeared in another video shown on Feb. 26, 2008.

The new video was filmed eight days ago, according to its date stamp, an official said. He spoke on condition that he not be identified by name or nationality because he was not supposed to release the information to media.

At the time of the kidnapping, Iraqi officials blamed Shiite militiamen loyal to anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The abductions were believed to be a retaliatory strike for the killing by British forces of the militia's commander in the southern city of Basra.

However, al-Sadr's followers have disavowed the kidnapping.