Baghdad: A Shiite militant group in Iraq said on Saturday that it would not hand over a British bodyguard it abducted four years ago, in a statement worded to suggest Alan McMenemy remains alive.
"The American occupiers did not stop their procrastination and delays in handing over our mujahedeen (holy warriors) in their prisons, so we declare we will not give them the British hostage Alan McMenemy," said a statement from the Asaib Ahel al-Haq, or League of the Righteous.
"We will keep him until our demands our met," said the statement, signed by Sheikh Akram al-Ka'bi, the deputy leader of the group, which Washington says is backed by Iran.
McMenemy dead or alive
The Arabic-language statement was worded to suggest that McMenemy, 34, was still alive, although the British government has believed for some time that he was killed by his kidnappers.
He was one of four bodyguards working with British computer consultant Peter Moore, when the five were kidnapped from the finance ministry in Baghdad in May 2007 by some 40 gunmen from the breakaway Shiite militia.
Moore was released unharmed in December 2009, and the bodies of the three other Britons, Alec MacLachlan, 30, Jason Swindlehurst, 38, and Jason Creswell, 39, were handed over to British officials in 2009.
The Iraqi government said in January last year it was expecting the Shiite group to imminently hand over McMenemy's body, but the handover never happened.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman told agencies at the time that London believed McMenemy had been killed.
"Our position is unchanged. We have believed for some time that Alan's been killed and his immediate family have been told our views," she said.
Beginning in June 2009, hundreds of members of the Shiite militia were freed from US-run prisons in Iraq after the bodies of the other three bodyguards were handed over by the militants.
Suggestions that the militants were released in exchange for the bodies of the three Britons have never been officially confirmed.