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Two Britons Held In Iraq 'Very Likely' Dead

A videotape purporting to show one of the five Britons held hostage in Iraq, Peter Moore, in February 2008.
LONDON (Reuters) -- Two of three remaining British hostages held in Iraq since May 2007 are "very likely" to be dead, media reports have said, citing the victims' families.

The two men, security guards who were working in Iraq, were among five Britons seized by a Shi'ite 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 in June but there was no news then of the fate of the remaining three.

BBC radio reported on July 29 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, which were also carried in other British media, 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 told Reuters that 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 on July 29.

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 television said a video showed a healthy-looking Moore.

In February 2008, another video featuring Moore was aired by Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah television in which he called on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to free nine Iraqis in return for the hostages' freedom.

Britain was an ally of the United States in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but has now withdrawn all but about 500 troops from the country.