Arab Network Airs Video of British Hostage Kidnapped Last Year in Iraq

An Arab TV news network broadcast a portion of a video Tuesday showing a British hostage seized in Iraq last May. The station said the kidnappers were demanding that Britain free nine Iraqi prisoners.

The hostage, who has been identified as Peter Moore, was kidnapped by heavily armed men in police uniforms in May 2007 from the Iraqi Finance Ministry, together with four of his British security guards. They were driven away in a convoy of 19 four-wheel-drive vehicles toward the Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad.

Moore, who worked for BearingPoint, a U.S.-based management consulting firm, appeared in a black-and-white track suit with a beard and looked as though he was in good health.

Moore called on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to accede to the kidnappers' demand for a trade. "It's as simple as that," he could be heard saying on the snippet of the tape broadcast on Al-Arabiya. "It's a simple exchange of people."

The network said on its Web site that it received the video from a group calling itself the "Islamic Shiite Resistance in Iraq" and offering the five Britons in exchange for nine of their men being held by British forces for the past year.

The British Foreign Office confirmed that it had seen the video, but would not identify the figure as Moore.

"We condemn the release of videos such as this, which are greatly distressing to the families of those involved," said the statement.

"We again call directly on those holding those men to release them. No matter what the cause, holding hostages is never justified and is never a way of making progress on any issue. These five men should be released immediately," it said.

In December, another video of the hostages called on Britain to pull out all of its forces from Iraq within the next 10 days. It featured what was purported to be one of the captives sitting beneath a sign reading "the Islamic Shiite Resistance in Iraq." The man was not identified.

That video carried a written statement saying the five had "acknowledged and confessed and detailed the agenda with which they came to steal our wealth under false pretense of being advisers to the Finance Ministry."

At the time of the kidnapping, Iraqi officials blamed the Mahdi Army, the feared militia under the control of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and the attack was believed to be a retaliatory strike for the killing by British forces earlier of the militia's commander in the southern city of Basra.

However, al-Sadr's followers have disavowed the kidnapping, and suspicion has fallen on splinter groups, which the United States believes are controlled by Iran. The four other captives were security workers for the Montreal-based firm GardaWorld.

Meanwhile, a British journalist working for CBS News who was kidnapped on Feb. 10 was still in custody in the southern city of Basra and remains in good health, said a top official in al-Sadr's network.

Harith al-Edhari, a director of al-Sadr's office in Basra, said his team was negotiating with the kidnappers and expressed confidence the journalist will be released.

The journalist's Iraqi interpreter, who was also taken captive, was handed over to authorities three days later.

Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, has seen fierce fighting between rival Shiite militias as part of a power struggle in the oil-rich south. The British military handed over responsibility for the province to the Iraqis in late December, but maintains forces in the area.