Dramatic video plea piles the pressure on Blair
A CHILLING video released last night of the British hostage, Ken Bigley, pleading for his life heaped more pressure on Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and added fresh torment for the captured Briton’s desperate family.
In the grainy tape, the 62-year-old, who was shown kneeling and dressed in an orange boilersuit, pleaded personally to the Prime Minister as the "only person on God’s earth" who can save his life.
"To Mr Blair, my name is Ken Bigley, from Liverpool. I think this is possibly my last chance, I don’t want to die. I don’t deserve and neither do the women deserve to be in prison.
"Please, please release the female prisoners that are held in Iraqi prisons. Please help them. I need you to help me, Mr Blair because you are the only person now on God’s earth that I can speak to. Please, please help me see my wife, who cannot go on without me."
In the 11-minute message, he said: "I think this is my last chance to speak. I don’t want to die in Iraq, neither do the women in the prisons ... I want to live, I want to live.
"Mr Blair, I’m nothing to you, just one person in the United Kingdom with a family like you ... You can help, I know you can. These people are not asking for the world, they’re asking for their wives, their mothers and children," Mr Bigley said.
"Please Mr Blair, show us some of the compassion that you say you have. The Iraqis don’t like foreign troops walking their streets. It’s not right and it’s not fair. We need to pull the troops out," he added, sometimes rocking forward, his hands in his lap.
Earlier, the United States said it had no intention of freeing two high-ranking female members of Saddam’s regime, despite threats by the terrorists holding the British hostage that they would kill him unless women were released.
The hopes of Mr Bigley’s family were raised when Iraq’s justice minister announced that he intended to release one of the women, Rihab Taha, a biological weapons scientist nicknamed Dr Germ, and to review the case of Huda Ammash, a weapons scientist, also known as Mrs Anthrax.
But the US, which has custody of the women in Iraq, moved quickly to play down the chances of their release. The British government, anxious not to be seen to be making concessions to secure the release of Mr Bigley, denied that any deals had been done with the Iraqi government.
The Foreign Office described the announcement of the women’s impending release as "a complete surprise" and dismissed it as "nothing more than an extraordinary coincidence".
A Downing Street spokesman said there had been no request to the Iraqi government to free the women to comply with the terrorists’ demands. "That would be tantamount to dealing with terrorists," a spokesman said. Iraqi authorities also stressed that the women’s release was unconnected with the hostage situation.
Mr Bigley’s family had greeted the possible release of one of the women with cautious optimism. His brother Paul described it as "better late than never" and said: "I truly hope this will shed a small light in a long, dark, cold tunnel."
But he had harsh words for the Prime Minister. "Mr Blair should take notice that I am not going to stop on this," he said. "If I lose my brother, Blair has to go. Ken is there shivering with fear, but he is alive. It is sickening to hear Blair say that he won’t deal with terrorists."
There was, though, little hope for Mr Bigley’s family to cling on to. As the kidnappers warned that Mr Blair would "cry blood", it emerged that the US had killed the terrorists’ spiritual leader in an air strike.
Omar Youssef Jumah, known as Abu Annas al-Shami, described himself as the spiritual guide of Tawhid and Jihad. Family members said he was killed in an air raid last Friday.
Last night, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, admitted there was little hope of saving Mr Bigley’s life.
"We continue to do everything that we can ... to secure Kenneth Bigley’s safe release, but it would be idle to pretend that there is a great deal of hope," he said.
The decapitated body and head of Jack Hensley, the second US hostage to be murdered, were found in a black plastic bag in Baghdad on Tuesday night. His family received the news yesterday, which would have been his 49th birthday.
His brother, Ty, said that Mr Hensley’s wife, Pati, was "extraordinarily devastated".
"She is a widow now. She is a mother of a 13-year-old daughter. What has fallen upon her is an extraordinary amount of weight," he said.
Mr Hensley is believed to have been killed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda-linked leader of the group. His death came a day after Zarqawi beheaded the American engineer, Eugene Armstrong, 52.
An Islamic website that announced the beheading of the second hostage threatened that Mr Bigley would die if the British government did not act.
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