Iraq kidnap: Govt in emergency talks

The Cabinet’s emergency response committee will meet again later as attempts continue to free the five Britons kidnapped in Iraq yesterday.

The five Britons, thought to be four security guards and a fifth man they were guarding, were taken at gunpoint by men dressed as Iraqi police officers.

Foreign Office officials confirmed they are in “urgent contact” with the Iraqi authorities to seek a “swift resolution” to the abduction crisis.

This is the fourth kidnapping of British non-military personnel in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Kenneth Biglet, 62, and Margaret Hassan, 59, were both murdered but Norman Kember, 76, was rescued.

Taking time out of a tour of Libya yesterday, Tony Blair said the UK will do everything it can to free the latest hostages unharmed.

The emergency response committee Cobra is holding further talks on Wednesday to seek a resolution.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but Shia militia the Mehdi army have been linked to the latest attack.

Iraq’s foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said corrupt police officials could also have been behind the “sophisticated” kidnapping.

“We are pursuing this case very vigorously,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Todayprogramme.

Mr Zebari continued: “It has been a known fact for some time that the interior ministry police, security units and forces are corrupt, are penetrated.

“This issue is a very serious, challenging fact to the government itself.”

Aside from the police uniforms, the kidnappers had the correct ID papers and approached the Britons in a vehicle used by officers.

The five Britons were kidnapped from the finance ministry, which lies outside the heavily fortified Green Zone.