New video shows Briton kidnapped in Iraq in 2007

BAGHDAD (AP) âÄî The British Embassy said Sunday it had received a new video showing one of five Britons taken hostage nearly two years ago allegedly by Shiite extremists that the U.S. believes are backed by Iran. Also Sunday, CNN reported that Turkey’s prime minister said he would be receptive to allowing U.S. troops to leave Iraq through Turkish territory if President Barack Obama’s administration asks permission. British Embassy spokesman Sean McColm refused to identify the hostage or say how and when the video was received. He said the video was “clearly a significant development” and that the British government was working for the safe release of all the captives. The five Britons âÄî information technology consultant Peter Moore and four of his security guards âÄî were seized by heavily armed men in police uniforms in May 2007 from the Finance Ministry compound in central Baghdad. A British newspaper reported last year that the militia claimed one of the hostages had committed suicide, but that was never confirmed. The BBC reported Sunday that the hostage in the video is Moore and that he says the five are being treated well. Moore appeared in another video shown on Feb. 26, 2008. The new video was filmed eight days ago, according to its date stamp, an official said. He spoke on condition that he not be identified by name or nationality because he was not supposed to release the information to media. At the time of the kidnapping, Iraqi officials blamed Shiite militiamen loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The abductions were believed to be a retaliatory strike for the killing by British forces of the militia’s commander in the southern city of Basra. However, al-Sadr’s followers have disavowed the kidnapping. The official said members of the U.S.-led coalition now believe the abduction was carried out by Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, a Sadrist splinter group that the U.S. believes is backed by Iran. The kidnappers have demanded the release of the group’s founder, Qais al-Khazali, a Shiite cleric who has been in U.S. custody since March 2007, and negotiations are under way in Iraq and Lebanon to resolve the issue, the official said. Al-Khazali is among thousands of Iraqis due to be transferred to Iraqi custody by the end of the year, and the British have asked Iraq not to release him as long as the hostages remain held, the official said. U.S. officials believe al-Khazali, a former aide to al-Sadr’s late father, organized the splinter groups that were responsible for a January 2007 raid on the Karbala provincial headquarters that killed five U.S. soldiers. Asaib Ahl al-Haq is believed to be trying to reorganize in southern Iraq and Baghdad after Shiite militants were routed in fighting last year in Basra and Baghdad. Moore worked for BearingPoint, a U.S.-based management consulting firm. His guards worked for the Montreal-based firm GardaWorld. Moore appeared in a video that was aired on the pan-Arab station Al-Arabiya in February last year in which he called on Britain to accept the kidnappers’ demand for a trade for Iraqi prisoners. “It’s as simple as that,” he could be heard saying. “It’s a simple exchange of people.” Al-Arabiya said it received the video from a group calling itself the Islamic Shiite Resistance in Iraq that offered the five Britons in exchange for nine of their men being held by British forces for the previous year. In December 2007, another video called on Britain to pull out all of its forces from Iraq within the next 10 days. About 4,000 British soldiers remain in Iraq and are due to leave by September, along with some 12,000 U.S. troops, according to the withdrawal schedule recently announced by Obama. All U.S. troops are to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 under an agreement negotiated by President George W. Bush’s administration. U.S. officials have said they may need to ask permission from Turkey and Jordan to use their territory to move out the force, currently at about 140,000. CNN quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan as saying “we are positive on that issue” but had received no formal request from the United States. “If weapons and ammunition are going to come out, it has to be clear where they are going to be heading,” CNN quoted Erdogan as saying in an interview Saturday. “If we are informed about where this military equipment would be going precisely, then we can make a proper evaluation.” Turkey, a NATO partner, refused to allow the U.S. to cross the Turkish border into Iraq during the March 2003 invasion, forcing the U.S. to rely on a single route of attack from Kuwait to the south. Elsewhere in Iraq, a booby-trapped house exploded early Sunday during a raid against suspected bombmakers in the Sadiya area north of Baghdad, although there were conflicting casualty tolls. Police said one Iraqi army officer was killed and three were wounded, while provincial security official Amir Rifaat said two officers were killed and five wounded. ___ Associated Press Writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.