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Gordon Brown Calls For Iraq Hostage Release

Gordon Brown has called for the release of five British hostages held in Iraq, after the release of a video that claims that one has killed himself.

The prime minister, who is visiting Israel, described the video as "abhorrent" and said it would only add to the anguish of the men's families.

The tape, purporting to come from the kidnappers, alleges that a man known as Jason died on 25 May 2008.

The men were kidnapped in May 2007 by militants disguised as police officers.

So far, British officials say they are not able to corroborate the claims.


Speaking between meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem, Mr Brown said he had discussed the kidnappings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki during a visit to Bagdad on Saturday.

He said he had also raised the issue with "Americans and others who are active in Iraq".

Said Mr Brown: "I call on the hostage-takers to release those people who have been held in captivity immediately.

"We will work with the Iraqi secure their release, and we will do everything in our power to work with all those who are in a position to help us release these hostages

"These men have suffered enough. "

Gordon Brown's call for the hostages to be released

It is understood that the man alleged to have committed suicide is the same Jason who appeared in a previous video, which was released by the kidnappers in December.

His family are said to have been informed last week.

'First warning'

The four bodyguards and a computer expert have been missing seen since they were snatched in broad daylight from at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad.

Around 40 men dressed as Iraqi police officers entered the building, while official-looking vehicles blocked the roads outside.

The bodyguards worked for security company Gardaworld and the fifth man worked for American management consultancy Bearingpoint.

A statement, claiming to come from the captors, who call themselves the Islamic Shia Resistance in Iraq, accuses the British Government of failing to respond to their messages.

"This procrastination and foot-dragging and lack of seriousness on the part of the British government has prolonged their psychological deterioration, pushing one of them, Jason, to commit suicide on 25/5/2008," said the statement.

"He surprised our brethren, who were taking care of him, with his suicide."

A video passed to the Sunday Times contained distressing news

The video also shows another British hostage, Alan, who comes from Dumbarton, appealing to the British government to meet his captors' demands for the release of prisoners.

"Physically, I'm not doing well," he says.

"Psychologically, I'm doing a lot worse.

"I want to see my family again."

But he makes no reference to Jason's alleged suicide.

Two occasions

According to the Sunday Times, an intermediary who handed the video to its representative said Jason had attempted suicide on two previous occasions.

Proof of his death would be handed over if the British government agreed to negotiate with the militants, the intermediary added.

In the previous film, dated 18 November, the militants said they would kill one of the men as a "first warning" unless the UK forces left Iraq within 10 days.

The tape, filmed in front of an "Islamic Shia Resistance in Iraq" flag, shows one man giving his name, saying he has been held for 173 days and adding: "I feel we have been forgotten."

The Foreign Secretary David Miliband has described the claims in the latest tape as "disgusting".

But he said the government remained open to working with anyone who can help free the men.

Sensitive negotiations

The hostages' friends and relatives marked the first anniversary of their capture in May by appealing for the hostages to be released.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has always maintained that sensitive negotiations for the men's release are going on behind the scenes.

One of the hostages has been identified as Peter Moore, originally from Lincoln, who was working as a computer consultant.

The identities of the four other men have not been confirmed.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner warned that there were numerous reports that his colleague Alan Johnston was killed after he was kidnapped in Gaza - all of which turned out to be inaccurate.

He added that the Iraqi captors appeared to want to do a prisoner exchange deal with the British government, and were not thought to be "bloodthirsty" in the same manner as al-Qaeda.

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