Report: Two of Three British Hostages in Iraq Likely Dead

Two of three British hostages being held in Iraq are likely to have died in captivity, British media reported Wednesday.

The fate of the hostages has been murky ever since Shiite militants disguised as Iraqi policemen abducted the Britons outside the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in a bold raid in May 2007. Since then, the men have only been seen in videotapes made by their captors.

The BBC reported that Britain's Foreign Office informed the families of two security guards that they "very likely" had died.

The condition of Peter Moore -- the technology consultant they were guarding -- is unknown, while the bodies of two other British hostages were found dead last month.

The families of the five hostages later issued a statement saying they were "deeply upset and troubled" at the reports that guards Alan McMenemy and Alec MacLachlan had died.

"We ask those holding our men for compassion when so many are working hard for reconciliation in Iraq and we continue to pray for the safe return of our men," the statement said.

The Foreign Office would not officially confirm the BBC report but said every effort is being made to secure the release of the hostages and that families were being kept informed.

Hopes for the men had risen after the release earlier this month of Laith al-Khazali, a Shiite militant who had been held in U.S. custody. The kidnappers want nine militiamen released, including al-Khazali's brother Qais al-Khazali, in exchange for the British hostages.