Two of three remaining British hostages held in Iraq since May 2007 are “very likely” to be dead, media reports said yesterday, citing the victims’ families.
The two men, security guards who were working in Iraq, were among five Britons seized by a Shiite militant group from inside an Iraqi Finance Ministry building in a raid in Baghdad.
The bodies of another two of the five, Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst, were handed over by their captors last month but there was no news then of the fate of the remaining three.
BBC radio reported yesterday that the families of two of the three remaining hostages were told by British officials last week it was “very likely” the pair were dead.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office refused to confirm or deny the reports, saying the government would “not discuss operational details of cases”.
“We continue to work intensively for the release of the hostages still held in this highly complex case, and are extremely concerned for their safety,” she said.
A source said relatives of the two men — named by the BBC as Alan McMenemy from Scotland and Alec Maclachlan from Wales — were expected to make a statement later yesterday.
The Foreign Office said it could not disclose details of any conversations with the families but said it continued to “keep families closely informed whenever there is new information.”
Since the Britons — computer instructor Peter Moore and his four bodyguards — were seized in May 2007, several videos of them in captivity have emerged. In March, Britain’s Channel 4 News TV said a video showed a healthy looking Moore.
In February last year, another video featuring Moore was aired by Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV in which he called on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to free nine Iraqis in return for the hostages’ freedom.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big