Kidnappers of five Britons seized in May demanded that Britain pull all its forces from Iraq, according to a video broadcast Tuesday by an Arabic satellite station.
The video, on Al-Arabiya television, featured one of the purported kidnapped Britons.
The man, who spoke in a clearly British accent, said the video had been made Nov. 18. He was seated beneath a sign reading “the Islamic Shiite Resistance in Iraq.”
A written statement featured on the video accused Britain of plundering the wealth of Iraq and demanded the British troops leave within 10 days. It did not say what would happen if the deadline was not met nor when the countdown began.
On May 29, about 40 gunmen in police uniforms and driving vehicles used by Iraqi security forces grabbed the five Britons from an Iraqi Finance Ministry compound.
At the time, Iraqi officials blamed the Mahdi Army, the feared militia under the control of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and it was believed to be a retaliatory attack for the killing by British forces last week of the militia’s commander in Basra.
However, al-Sadr’s followers have disavowed the kidnapping and suspicion has fallen on splinter groups which the United States believes are controlled by Iran.
None of the kidnappers nor their voices appeared on the video.
Follow-up video promised
Instead a written statement said the five had “acknowledged and confessed and detailed the agenda with which they came to steal our wealth under false pretense of being advisers to the Finance Ministry.”
The tape promised to “follow up with their confessions later.”
Four of those abducted were security workers for the Montreal-based firm GardaWorld; the fifth was an employee of BearingPoint, a McLean, Va.-based management consulting firm.
BearingPoint has been working in Iraq since 2003 on a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded contract to support economic recovery and reform.
In October, the U.S. military said a raid in Baghdad’s Sadr City netted three suspected Shiite militia fighters believed to be responsible for the kidnapping. As recently as September, the U.S. military said it believed the Britons are still alive.