Hostage’s family appeals to Blair
LONDON: The family of a British hostage threatened with execution in Iraq made a desperate appeal to Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday to meet kidnappers’ demands and save his life.
Kenneth Bigley is being held hostage with American Jack Hensley by the Tawhid and Jihad group headed by Al Qaeda ally Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.
Another Western hostage seized with them last Thursday, Eugene Armstrong, was beheaded in a gruesome murder shown on an Internet video overnight.
Bigley’s son Craig made a direct appeal to Blair, saying he was the only person who could save his father. “I ask Tony Blair personally to consider the amount of bloodshed already suffered,” he said in a statement broadcast on BBC News 24 television. “Only you can save him now.” “Please meet the demands and release my father, two women for two men.”
The US is holding two women scientists, accused of working on ex-president Saddam Hussein’s banned weapons programmes, in a special prison for high-profile detainees.
In the video of Armstrong’s murder, the hostage-takers said they had killed him because US authorities had failed to free women prisoners in Iraqi jails.
They gave another 24 hours for the United States to do so, or the other two hostages would be killed. A spokeswoman for Blair’s Downing Street office said she had nothing to add to remarks made by the prime minister at the weekend. “Obviously we understand how the family must feel, but we have nothing further to say at the moment,” she told Reuters.
Blair has remained tight-lipped throughout the capture of Bigley and the two Americans, saying only that the government was “doing everything we can” to save them. Blair’s stance contrasts with appeals by President Jacques Chirac for the release of two French journalists held hostage and with US President George W Bush, who insisted on Monday he would not bow to kidnappers’ demands.
His lack of public appeals has worried Bigley’s family, who noted that Blair spent part of Monday on a new rail development.
“We have seen the prime minister spending time on trains that can help a commuter save 14 minutes on a journey to London when he should be devoting his time to saving the life of my brother,” Bigley’s brother Philip told Sky television.
“We are not politicians. He is the political head of our country. It is the prime minister who has the power to save Ken’s life ... The death of the American hostage has proved to us that if nothing is done then the two remaining captives will die by the most horrific means.” The threatened killing of Bigley, 62, has thrust the Iraq issue back into the spotlight just as Blair prepares for the annual conference of his Labour Party, at which he is likely to face continued anger from left-wingers at his decision to go to war. Analysts said Blair was struggling with a no-win situation. reuters