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IRAQ RELEASED 97 SHIITE MILITANTS

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Nearly 100 members of the Shiaa Leagues of Righteousness group (Asaib al-Haq in Arabic), suspected of links to the kidnap of five Britons, Peter More and four bodyguards, in Iraq in 05/2007 have been released from prison, Iraqi sources confirmed on 09/27/2009.

At least three of the bodyguards – Alec Maclachlan, Jason Swindlehurst and Jason Creswell have since been killed (see – Jasons Hostages).

A UK embassy spokesman told the BBC: “Anything that achieves a resolution of the hostage crisis is a good thing”, hinting that there might be a link between the release of the 97 militants and Peter Moore.

However, the British government insists it does not make deals with hostage-takers.

Foreign Office officials believe the fourth security team member has also been killed. Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said he believes Mr Moore is still alive, although his condition is not known.

A video in which Mr Moore said the hostages were being treated well was released to their families – though not the media – in March. He also featured in a video released in February 2008.

A senior member of the group, Jassim al Saedi, said: “We have received 97 detainees, and next week we expect that to reach 200. “The government has promised us they will release all our detainees by the end of November,” he added.

Iraq has said it is not negotiating for the hostages’ freedom and has denied any link with the release of militants. Authorities there have been releasing some detainees to foster national reconciliation after years of conflict.
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