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Lottie

UK Muslims Seek Hostage Release

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Two senior members of the Muslim Council of Britain are due to arrive in the Iraqi capital to press for the release of British hostage Ken Bigley.

Dr Daud Abdullah and Dr Musharraf Hussain will urge Muslim leaders to put pressure on the kidnappers.

The council's secretary general, Iqbal Sacranie, said even in this "dire situation" they still had to have hope.

On Saturday, one of Baghdad's main newspapers carried a front-page advert from Mr Bigley's family asking for help.

Mr Bigley, a 62-year-old civil engineer from Liverpool, was captured at gunpoint in Baghdad on 16 September with two American colleagues.

The two Americans have both since been beheaded by their captors.

There has been no word on Mr Bigley since he was seen pleading for his life in a video posted on a militant-linked website on Wednesday.

'Completely destroyed'

The BBC's Karen Allen, in Baghdad, said Saturday's newspaper advert told how the family had been "completely destroyed" by the events.

Mr Sacranie, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday, said: "I am convinced the message will be conveyed to whoever these people are who are holding Ken.

There has been no word on Mr Bigley since this video was aired

"It is a matter of convincing them (the hostage takers) that no atrocious act can be done in the name of Islam."

The two envoys said they hoped to meet Islamic scholars and other well-placed Iraqis in Baghdad.

"We believe we are well placed - perhaps better placed than others - to convey our concerns and the concerns and the grief of the family and their wishes for his release," Dr Abdullah said.

Despite the latest delegation, there is doubt as to whether the kidnappers would speak to any representatives from Britain.

The BBC's Karen Allen said the delegation had themselves warned against pinning too much hope on the mission.

Speaking on the Today programme Canon Andrew White from the Iraqi Center for Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace said: "The people who do the hostage taking are not the eventual political groups who wheel and deal and get what they want."

He said the kidnappers in these cases were led by people who were not Iraqis.

"They think they have the interest of Iraq at heart but honestly they do not."

'Injustice and torture'

Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Abu Rideh, being held in Britain under terrorism legislation, has joined appeals for Mr Bigley's release.

The Independent newspaper carries an interview by Mr Abu Rideh, also known as Abu Rasmi, in which he said he knew what it was like to suffer "injustice and torture".

An appeal from Mr Bigley's 86-year-old mother Lil, made in the family's home city of Liverpool, was broadcast on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic television channel, earlier this week.

The British Embassy in the Iraqi capital has also distributed 50,000 leaflets appealing for Mr Bigley's release.

The kidnappers from the Tawhid and Jihad Group, led by al-Qaeda suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have threatened to murder him unless the UK and US release all women held in Iraqi jails.

Britain has ruled out any negotiations with the kidnappers and Mr Straw is coming under fire in his own constituency for his handling of the crisis.

Members of the Muslim community in Blackburn, Lancashire, have organised a protest rally on Sunday to push for the government to do more for Mr Bigley.

Meanwhile, more than 100 people attended a two-hour candle-lit vigil at Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral on Friday night, in support of the engineer.

Also Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern released a statement to Al-Jazeera calling for the release of Mr Bigley, whose mother was born in Dublin.

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Blairs Vow Over British Hostage

Prime Minister Tony Blair has vowed that the government "will continue to do whatever it can" for British hostage Ken Bigley.

His words came as two members of the Muslim Council of Britain landed in Iraq to press for Mr Bigley's release.

Dr Daud Abdullah and Dr Musharraf Hussain will urge Muslim leaders to put pressure on the kidnappers to free him.

Mr Bigley's elderly mother, 86-year-old Lil, was taken to hospital for a second time on Saturday after falling ill.

Mr Bigley, a 62-year-old civil engineer from Liverpool, was captured at gunpoint in Baghdad on 16 September with two American colleagues.

The two Americans have both since been beheaded by their captors.

'Amazing dignity'

Speaking as he arrived at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Mr Blair said: "We have been in touch with the Bigley family and I think everyone is amazed at how dignified they have been over the last few days.

"We will continue to do whatever we can.

"If you will forgive me, I don't think there is much more I can or should say at the moment."

There has been no word on the engineer since he was seen pleading for his life in a video posted on a militant-linked website on Wednesday.

Paramedics were called to treat Mrs Bigley's home in Walton, Liverpool, on Saturday and took her to hospital after spending half an hour in the house with her.

It was the second time she had become ill since news of her son being kidnapper emerged.

Jack Straw has telephoned Mr Bigley's wife in Thailand and former Beirut hostage Terry Waite visited his family's UK home on Saturday.

The Foreign Office confirmed that the foreign secretary telephoned Mrs Bigley on Saturday morning.

No details of that conversation have been given, but it is thought Mr Straw would have explained to Mrs Bigley through an interpreter the measures the government is taking to secure her husband's release.

His call came as House of Commons leader Peter Hain clarified comments he made suggesting that Iraq would be a "fringe" issue at the party conference.

"Iraq most emphatically is not [a fringe issue] and I did not mean to give that impression", he said.

The two Muslim Council of Britain members in Baghdad, Dr Abdullah and Dr Hussain, have said they hope to meet Islamic scholars and other well placed Iraqis in Baghdad.

As they arrived in Baghdad, Dr Hussain told BBC world affairs correspondent Nicholas Witchell: "It is our responsibility to do what we can.

"We believe in the power of prayer, we believe in the power of prayer touching people's hearts."

Dr Abdullah said: "We would seek to contact people we believe would be able to open their hearts. "There are many people in this society who can play such a role and we will do everything to contact them."

The council's secretary general, Iqbal Sacranie, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday, said: "I am convinced the message will be conveyed to whoever these people are who are holding Ken.

"It is a matter of convincing them (the hostage takers) that no atrocious act can be done in the name of Islam."

The BBC's Karen Allen, in Baghdad, said the delegation had themselves warned against pinning too much hope on the mission.

There has been no word on Mr Bigley since this video was aired

Speaking on BBC News 24 on Saturday, Labour peer Baroness Pola Uddin said she was "sceptical" of what she described as "a knee jerk reaction" to the situation.

"The Muslim Council of Britain is not recognised as an authority, even in this country", she said, adding that she did not think Iraqis were "going to recognise their authority."

An appeal by Mr Bigley's mother, made in the family's home city of Liverpool, was broadcast on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic television channel, earlier this week.

The British Embassy in the Iraqi capital has also distributed 50,000 leaflets appealing for Mr Bigley's release.

One of Baghdad's main newspapers has also carried a front-page advert from Mr Bigley's family asking for help.

The kidnappers from the Tawhid and Jihad Group, led by al-Qaeda suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have threatened to murder him unless the UK and US release all women held in Iraqi jails.

Britain has ruled out any negotiations with the kidnappers and Mr Straw is coming under fire in his own constituency for his handling of the crisis.

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im sorry its dreadful i know but we CANNOT negotiate, never.

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