Thursday, September 06, 2007


U.S. commander - British hostages still alive

(The Times) - Lieutenant-General Raymond Odierno, the second-most-senior US commander in Iraq said that he had reason to believe that the five British hostages who were seized from Baghdad’s Finance Ministry three months ago were still alive. General Odierno said he received daily reports on the fate of the five British hostages, and added: “We have reason to believe they are still alive.” He refused to elaborate, and would not say whether there had been any contact with the kidnappers.
However, he confirmed that “rogue elements” of the al-Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to the radical Shia cleric Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, were responsible. He challenged Hojatole-slam al-Sadr and his followers to prove that the ceasefire they announced last week - ostensibly to tackle the breakaway factions - was genuine by identifying the kidnappers. “Identify who these rogue elements are. Tell us where these hostages are. We think that’s something you can talk about,” he said.
One of the splinter groups is led by Abu Dera, an infamous Shia death squad leader who broke with Hojatole-slam al-Sadr last year after refusing to end his sectarian killing spree. General Odierno confirmed a report in The Times last week that Abu Dera was involved in the kidnapping.

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