British hostage Peter Moore released ALIVE in Baghdad after 'unspeakable' two-and-a-half years
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 4:00 PM on 30th December 2009
- Mystery surrounds release as Miliband says 'we did no direct deal'
A British man held hostage in Iraq for more than two-and-a-half years has been freed, David Miliband said today.
Computer expert Peter Moore, 36, was seized along with his four British bodyguards at the finance ministry in Baghdad on May 29, 2007.
Fears for his safety grew after the bodies of three of the security guards - Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell and Alec MacLachlan - were handed over to the UK authorities.
Freed: Peter Moore, in an undated handout photo from before he was captured in Baghdad two-and-a-half years ago
The body of the fourth security guard, Alan McMenemy, is still missing.
It is not clear what deal led to Mr Moore's release, or who was responsible for securing the deal. Mr Miliband denied any direct deal had been done.
He said: 'The British Government does not make substantive concessions to hostage takers, anywhere and any place, and there was no such substantive concession in this case.'
Mr Moore's father Graeme has previously accused the Foreign Office of failing his son.
Mr Miliband confirmed that Mr Moore had been freed after an 'unspeakable' ordeal.
''He was freed by his captors this morning and released to the Iraqi authorities,' he said at the Foreign Office in London today.
'He is now in the care of the British Embassy in Baghdad.
'I've spoken to the acting ambassador and I've just had a very moving conversation with Peter himself.
'He's in good health despite many months in captivity. He's going to be reunited with his family as soon as possible in the UK.'
'He is, to put is mildly, absolutely delighted at his release.
Released: The man claiming to be British computer expert Peter Moore in a video released by his captors in 2008
'We are in close touch with Peter's family. His family and friends are also delighted about his release and that he has come through an unspeakable two-and-a-half years.'
Mr Milliband went on to say that his thoughts were with the family of the last hostage Alan McMenemy, 34.
The security guard's fate is unknown but the Foreign Secretary said British authorities believed he was dead and had been for some time.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh confirmed Mr Moore's release.
Relief: Peter Moore's father Graeme
'He is alive and in good health... The Iraqi government is happy that he will be joining his family for the holidays,' he added.
This afternoon Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was 'hugely relieved' at the release.
Mr Moore's father Graeme, 60, from Wigston, Leicestershire, said he was 'over the moon' at the news.
He said: 'We are so relieved and we just want to get him home, back now to his family and friends.
'I'm breaking down, I'm just so overjoyed for the lad. It's been such a long haul.
'I know that there have been one or two people working in the background to get Peter released.
'Peter is a very resilient lad and he always has been because of his background... but I don't know how close he was to those others who have been shot.'
The father added that he felt the Foreign Office had been 'obstructive' in the effort to secure his son's safe release.
Graeme Moore has in the past accused the Foreign Office of failing his son, claiming the three bodies were proof the case had been mishandled.
But Mr Miliband defended the UK's role. He said Britain had 'always kept this case under review and we have always been seeking to develop our tactics but we've always been very clear about the end result, which was the release of the hostages.
'In this case one has been released alive.'
He said Mr Brown had 'devoted significant effort' to securing the release in talks with his Iraqi counterpart and others.
Asked if he was satisfied that everything possible had been done by the UK, Mr Miliband said: 'I know that officials in the Foreign Office, both in London and in Iraq, have worked tirelessly on this case.
Kidnapped security guard Alan McMenemy, left, is still missing. The body of guard Alec MacLachlan was returned to authorities
The bodies of hostages Jason Swindlehurst, left, and Jason Creswell were handed over to authorities in Baghdad in June this year
'I know that the Prime Minister has devoted significant effort as well ... to reinforce the importance of this case.
'The Foreign Office has also dedicated enormous resource to this.'
Mr Miliband said the release was also 'the result of some very hard work on the part of the Iraqi authorities and we are very grateful for that'.
He reiterated the Government's view that Mr McMenemy was dead but said 'ultimate clarity' was impossible without a body.
'We are clear about our own view. We communicated that to the family. I have communicated it publicly.
'However, I think it is also important that we say that ultimate clarity will only ever come with the release of the body.'
Mr Moore, he said, was in a 'remarkable frame of mind given the two-and-a-half years that he has had'.
David Miliband announces the release of Peter Moore at the Foreign Office in London this afternoon
He is due to be debriefed today and tomorrow and his health will be assessed. It is not clear when he will return to England.
Mr Moore and his guards - Alan McMenemy, Alec MacLachlan, Jason Swindlehurst and Jason Creswell - were seized by about 40 armed men wearing police uniforms outside the Finance Ministry in 2007.
Earlier this year there were fresh hopes that all five Britons could be freed after the U.S. released a leading Shiite insurgent who had been linked to the kidnapping.
But these were dashed when the bodies of Mr Swindlehurst, 38, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and Mr Creswell, 39, originally from Glasgow, were handed over in June.
This was followed by the delivery of the body of Mr MacLachlan, 30, from Llanelli, South Wales, to the British embassy in Baghdad in September.
The family of Mr McMenemy, from Glasgow, was told by the Foreign Office in July he was 'very likely' to have died.
Mr Miliband, who is understood to have broken off his holiday to make today's announcement, appealed for the kidnappers to release Mr McMenemy's body.
He said: 'We have believed for some time that he has been killed, and his family have been told our view of his likely fate.
'I call today again in the strongest terms for the hostage-takers to return Alan's body as soon as possible.'
He added: 'My thoughts today are also with the families of Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell and Alec MacLachlan, who did not survive this hostage-taking and whose bodies were repatriated to the UK earlier this year.
'Unspeakable' ordeal: Moore in another undated handout photo prior to his release
'For Peter's family the pain and the anguish is over. For the other families, it endures.'
Mr Moore's release was made possible by the Iraqi government's process of national reconciliation with armed groups prepared to renounce violence, the Foreign Secretary added.
'I hope it will lead also to the end to the scourge of hostage-taking and violence in that country,' he said.
Responsibility for the kidnappings was at first pinned on Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.
They were thought to be a retaliatory attack for the killing by British forces of the militia's commander in Basra, southern Iraq, a week earlier.
But al-Sadr's followers denied responsibility and suspicion fell on splinter groups alleged to be controlled by Iran.
The kidnappers, calling themselves the Islamic Shiite Resistance in Iraq, issued several videos featuring the captives and making demands.
In February last year a video broadcast by Dubai-based TV station Al-Arabiya showed a bearded and tired-looking Mr Moore asking Mr Brown to free nine Iraqis in exchange for the British hostages.
He said: 'All I want is to leave this place. I tell Gordon Brown the matter is simple: release their prisoners so we can go.'
Mr Moore also appeared in another video which was sent directly to the British Embassy in Baghdad in March.
The low-profile nature of the case, with the families agreeing throughout negotiaions not to talk, is in stark contrast with the campaigns during the detention of other Middle East hostages such as peace activist Norman Kember, engineer Kenneth Bigley and BBC journalist Alan Johnson.
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