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
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions