US frees Iraqi accused of five soldier deaths

The US military has released a Shiite militant accused of being involved in the 2007 killing of five American soldiers, officials said today.

Laith al-Khazali's release comes amid reports of negotiations with his militia group to free at least one of five British hostages.

Al-Khazali and his brother Qais, who were both detained in March 2007, are accused of organizing a bold raid on a local government headquarters in Karbala that killed five US soldiers on January 20, 2007. The brothers are leading members Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, which is allegedly backed by Iran.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said the release was part of "the wider Iraqi government reconciliation process of reaching out to groups that are willing to set aside violence in favor of taking part in the political process."

The spokesman declined to be identified in line with department policy.

A follower of anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also said that al-Khazali has returned home to Baghdad's mainly Shiite district of Sadr City. The Sadrist official spoke today on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to comment on the issue.

The US military has been releasing detainees or transferring them to Iraqi custody as part of a security pact that took effect on January 1.

Al-Khazali's release takes on added significance because it follows reports of an agreement that one of five British hostages would be freed in exchange for the release of 10 members of Asaib Ahl al-Haq.

The US military believes the extremist network is one of the main so-called Iranian-backed "special groups" that have refused to adhere to a cease-fire called by al-Sadr. The other is Kataib Hezbollah or Brigades of the Party of God.

Iran's government denies having any links to Shiite extremists in Iraq, but American officials believe the two groups are controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Brigade, which trains Shiite militants from various Middle Eastern countries.

In March, the widely read Saudi-owned news Web site Elaph quoted an Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader as saying one of the five Britons would be freed "very soon" in exchange for 10 of its members.

If that exchange goes according to plan, the other hostages would be released in stages in exchange for the freedom of more detained Shiites, according to the report. The first group of detainees would include Laith al-Khazali, it said.

The five Britons - a management consultant named Peter Moore and four of his security guards - were seized by heavily armed men in police uniforms in May 2007 from the Finance Ministry. They were driven away toward Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City.

The British Embassy received a new video showing one of the hostages, who was not identified, in March.

Moore, who worked for BearingPoint, a U.S.-based management consulting firm, also appeared in a video that was aired on the pan-Arab station Al-Arabiya in February.

At that time, he called on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to accede to the kidnappers' demand for a trade for Iraqi prisoners. "It's as simple as that," he could be heard saying. "It's a simple exchange of people."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent