June 22, 2008 / 6:17 AM / 9 years ago

Iraq official says U.K. captives alive

LONDON (Reuters) - Five Britons who were kidnapped in Baghdad more than a year ago are still alive, Iraq’s most senior security official told the BBC on Saturday.

Iraq's National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie speaks at the 4th IISS Regional Security Summit in Bahraini, capital of Manama, December 9, 2007. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, said authorities had “very good, strong intelligence telling us they are alive”, the BBC said.

“And we roughly know the area where they are,” Rubaie added. “But we don’t want to be aggressive in our approach, not to risk their lives.”

The Britons -- a computer instructor and his four bodyguards -- were seized by a Shi‘ite militant group from inside an Iraqi Finance Ministry building in a raid in Baghdad in May 2007.

There was no news of the men until a video featuring one of the hostages was released last December. It included a statement from his 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.

The BBC said Rubaie was speaking after a visit to Baghdad by a senior Anglican churchman, who appealed for the men to be released for their families’ sakes.

The Right Reverend Michael Lewis appealed to those holding the men to “consider messages that are being passed to them from many sources asking for mercy and compassion”.

Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Giles Elgood

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