Saturday 18 November 2017

Iraq hints at release of fifth UK hostage

Jonathan Brown in London

THE FATE of the fifth British hostage seized in Baghdad nearly three years ago could be resolved within days, according to senior Iraqi government sources. But the British foreign office sought to play down suggestions that Alan McMenemy might be alive, urging the kidnappers to release his body.

Speculation over the wellbeing of the 34-year-old Scot surfaced as Peter Moore, who was taken by Shia militants at the same time as four bodyguards in 2007, issued a statement expressing his delight at being free after 946 days in captivity.

His return has raised hopes of a resolution to the crisis. An Iraqi government spokesman indicated it was not confirmed that the outstanding hostage had been killed. Ali al-Dabbagh said: "We hope McMenemy is still alive. The government is seeking his release. That will be soon, God willing." He added: "All must be handed over to the British embassy. And that will happen in the coming days."

The foreign office said the British position remained unchanged. A spokeswoman said: "We believe that Alan has been killed and his family have been told our view."

While the bodies of three of the captives were returned last year, no proof of, or explanation for, Mr McMenemy's fate has been forthcoming. His father Dennis McMenemy, from Dumbarton, criticised Britain's handling of the crisis this weekend as "scandalous". He said: "I'm not happy with the British government's role because they didn't do enough. If Alan is dead, the British government will have blood on its hands."

It is thought that Mr McMenemy was being used as the final chip to secure the freedom of Iranian-backed militant leader Qais al-Khazali, whose transfer from a US to an Iraqi jail presaged Mr Moore's release. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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