Family of British hostage in Iraq urges his captors to free him

Friday, September 17th 2004, 8:30 pm
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ The government on Friday identified the British engineer who was kidnapped in Baghdad with two American colleagues, and the victim's family urged his captors to free him.

Kenneth Bigley, believed to be 62, was seized with the two other men by militants without a shot being fired during a dawn raid Thursday in the wealthy al-Mansour district of Iraq's capital.

His extended family said it was devastated by the kidnapping and was awaiting news of his fate.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reassured them in a phone call that everything possible was being done to find Bigley, who is married with one child.

``We were devastated to find that Ken had been taken, and we are still struggling to come to terms with what is happening,'' the family said in a statement.

``It's hard to understand why Ken would be targeted in this way, but we would appeal to those who have taken him to please return him safely to us. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of his two work colleagues, too, who must share our distress.''

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, and the whereabouts of Bigley, and Americans Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong, remained unknown.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli on Friday said U.S. officials were working closely with Iraqi authorities to secure the release of the hostages.

``Our consular bureau officials have been in contact with the family of the two Americans. We remain in contact with local authorities in Baghdad,'' he said. ``We are doing everything possible to assist Iraqi investigators.''

The three hostages worked as civil engineers under contract for Gulf Services Co., a United Arab Emirates-based construction company.

Intelligence agencies were scouring militant Islamic Web sites for news of the captives' fate. Placing video of hostages on the Internet is a way that kidnappers in Iraq often issue their demands.

Gulf Services, which has said that it had provided the men with a 24-hour armed guard, pleaded for their safe and speedy release.

Bigley had been working in Baghdad since shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last year.

The three kidnap victims were believed to have been in the garden of their home when they were seized, and a number of neighbors said there had been no sign of fighting.

About 10 attackers were believed to have driven to the house in a minivan and kidnapped the men without a gunfight.