Former British hostage Peter Moore back in Britain

AP News
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Posted: Jan 01, 2010 1:28 PM

Former hostage Peter Moore arrived at a military base in Britain on Friday evening after spending more than two-and-a-half years in captivity in Iraq.

The British computer consultant is believed to be the only survivor of a dramatic daytime kidnapping in Baghdad in May 2007. U.S. officials said they believe he spent part of his time in captivity in Iran.

Moore was set free Wednesday, and his family released a statement Friday evening expressing joy at his return to Britain.

"We are thrilled to have Peter back safely," it said. "We have a lot of catching up to do and would like to have time with Peter on our own. We would now ask the media to give us space and privacy."

His return from Baghdad to RAF Brize Norton air base in Oxfordshire was shrouded in secrecy Friday because Moore and his family want privacy after his long ordeal.

The British Foreign Office said Moore would likely spend a week being debriefed. Officials said Moore and his family would not be giving any interviews.

Moore, 36, and his four British bodyguards were seized during a daytime attack outside the Finance Ministry in Baghdad. Three of the bodyguards were known to be killed, and the fourth is believed to be dead.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has welcomed Moore's release and called for the quick return of the remains of Alan McMenemy, the bodyguard who is believed to have been killed. The remains of the other three bodyguards have already been returned.

Miliband said no deal was made with the hostage-takers in order to free Moore, and credited his release on the reconciliation taking place between Iraq's government and the armed militant groups that have been willing to renounce violence and join the political process.

Moore's release, however, coincided with the transfer of the head of the militant group behind the kidnapping, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, from U.S. to Iraqi government custody.

Qais al-Khazali, along with his brother, were accused of organizing a daring attack on a local government headquarters in the city of Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers on Jan. 20, 2007.

Moore's kidnappers had demanded al-Khazali's release along with that of several Shiite militiaman held by U.S. forces. The militant group in August promised to lay down its weapons and join the political process, which had raised hopes for Moore's release.

U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said in Iraq on Friday that Moore spent at least part of his captivity in Iran.

A British Foreign Office statement said that Moore was flown on a government-contracted plane from Baghdad to nearby Amman, Jordan, then transferred to an International SOS aircraft for the longer flight to England.

The statement said Moore and his family would be reunited at an unspecified location away from the military base and asked the media to respect his desire for "complete privacy."