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Bodies of 2 British hostages identified

The bodies of two British hostages kidnapped in Iraq in 2007 have been handed over to U.K. officials. Britain feared three other Britons taken hostage with them were in grave danger.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Two bodies handed over to British authorities in Iraq have been identified as bodyguards kidnapped in Baghdad two years ago, the government said Sunday.

The Foreign Office said the two bodies were "highly likely" those of Jason Creswell, from Glasgow, Scotland, and Jason Swindlehurst, from Skelmersdale in northwest England.

The two men worked for Canadian security firm GardaWorld and were abducted in May 2007 along with information technology consultant Peter Moore and two other bodyguards, identified only as Alan and Alec.

The five men were overpowered by armed Shiite militants outside the Finance Ministry in Baghdad, and have since been seen only in a few videotapes made by their captors.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent his condolences to the families of the dead men.

He said there was "no justification for hostage-taking" and called for the immediate release of the three remaining hostages.

Brown said he had contacted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and was working with authorities in Baghdad to secure the remaining hostages' release "as soon as possible."

On Saturday, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the remains of two hostages had been handed over to British officials in Baghdad, and forensic tests were being conducted to identify them.

It is unclear when and how the men died. Last year a British newspaper reported a claim by the kidnappers that one of the hostages had committed suicide, but that was never confirmed.

Hopes for the men had risen after the release earlier this month of Laith al-Khazali, a Shiite militant who had been held in U.S. custody. The kidnappers had demanded the release of nine militiamen, including al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali, in exchange for the British hostages.