Gordon Brown called for the release of five British hostages held in Iraq yesterday, after the release of a video claiming that one had killed himself. earlier this year.
The prime minister, who is visiting Israel, described the video as “abhorrent”.
He said: “I call on the hostage-takers to release those people who have been held in captivity immediately. “We will work with the Iraqi government…to 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.”
Brown said on the weekend he was taking seriously a claim by militants in Iraq that one of five Britons they are holding hostage has killed himself. The Sunday Times reported that the kidnappers made the claim in a videotaped statement handed to its representative in Iraq last week.
The statement said one of the hostages, named as Jason, committed suicide on 25 May – one year after the Britons were seized by a Shi’ite militant group from inside an Iraqi Finance Ministry building in a raid in Baghdad.
Brown said he discussed the issue of the five hostages with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad on Saturday. Iraq’s national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, had said in June that the five Britons, who have not been named, were still alive.
There was no news of the men until a video featuring one of them was released last December. It included a statement from the captors threatening to kill him unless Britain pulled its troops out of Iraq.
A second video was released in February, this time featuring a second hostage who appealed for the release of nine Iraqis in return for the Britons’ freedom.
Also on his visit to Iraq, Brown said he wanted to reduce British troop levels in Iraq, although he refused to set a timetable for their departure. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is in favour of scaling down troop numbers by next year.