US troops 'in two failed attempts to save Bigley'

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US troops made two failed attempts to rescue hostage Kenneth Bigley and the two Americans he was held captive with, it emerged yesterday.

US troops made two failed attempts to rescue hostage Kenneth Bigley and the two Americans he was held captive with, it emerged yesterday.

The American soldiers were deployed twice to locations in Baghdad in a bid to find and free the men. But each time, there was no sign of the hostages, who were all eventually beheaded, CNN has reported.

The revelation came after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw earlier told the Commons that an intermediary had passed messages to the terrorists, urging them not to kill 62-year-old civil engineer, Mr Bigley.

A US official told CNN that US soldiers and "other Government personnel", probably CIA operatives, received tip-offs as to where the hostages were held by the insurgent leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Both times, the source said, the missions came up with "dry holes".

It appeared at both locations that people had been there, but it was unclear whether the hostages had been moved or if the intelligence was simply wrong. "A lot of people had a lot of sleepless nights trying to find them," the unnamed official was quoted as saying.

Mr Bigley, from Liverpool, and Americans Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley, were kidnapped on September 16. The first rescue attempt came when all three men were still alive, the source said The second came after Mr Armstrong was killed on 20 September.

Earlier, Mr Straw told the Commons that when he was in Iraq last week he was "fully involved" in communications which took place through an intermediary. Mr Straw said in a Commons statement that the intermediary took messages to Mr Bigley's captors in an attempt to dissuade them from carrying out their threat to kill him.

The Foreign Secretary said that the Bigley family in Liverpool, and Mr Bigley's wife in Thailand, were kept fully informed of the dealings with the go-between - who eventually provided "proof beyond doubt" of the hostage's death.

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