Religious Leaders Make Appeal for Remaining Hostage

Muslim and Christian religious leaders in the hometown of a British national held hostage in Iraq appealed Thursday for his captors to free him
( [email protected] ) Sep 23, 2004 03:20 PM EDT

Muslim and Christian religious leaders in the hometown of a British national held hostage in Iraq appealed Thursday for his captors to free him. Kenneth Bigley, who was one of the three men taken hostage last Thursday, was threatened to face the same fate as the two other hostages who were beheaded on Monday and Tuesday.

"In the name of God, the merciful one, we as Muslim and Christian leaders in Liverpool appeal to you as believers to have mercy on Kenneth Bigley," said Akbar Ali, the chairman of Liverpool Mosque and Islamic Institute, as reported by CNN.

James Jones, Liverpool’s Anglican Bishop who joined Ali at the news conference on Thursday, also made a plea, saying, "We're appealing to them on the grounds of their own faith and their own faith in the God of mercy to be merciful, to have compassion in this situation and to release Mr. Bigley."

Bigley's wife, who lives in Thailand, also begged the captors to release her husband.

"My husband, Ken, is an ordinary, hardworking family man who wanted to help the people of Iraq amongst whom he has made many friends," Sombat Bigley said, according to a translation from The Associated Press.

"As a loving wife, I beg you once more for mercy."

Last Thursday, Bigley, 62, and two Americans were abducted from their Baghdad residence by a militant group led by Jordanian-born terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. According to news sources, the militants, who have demanded the release of Muslim women from Iraqi prisons, threatened to decapitate the three hostages unless their demands were met. The threat came on Saturday in a video that showed Bigley and Americans Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong.

After the passing of the 48-hour deadline, the militant group proceeded in beheading American Eugene Armstrong and posted a video of the killing on the Internet on Monday. The hostage's body was later recovered and identified, a U.S. official in Washington told Reuters. It was not immediately clear where or when it was found.

The kidnappers then killed the second American hostage in Iraq Tuesday night and said they would behead Kenneth Bigley, the British captive, if their demands were not met.

U.S. officials said the only women currently held in Iraq are the two "high value detainees," both held at Camp Cropper near the Baghdad airport, according to Iraqi sources.

The interim Iraqi government Thursday reiterated it had no imminent plans to release any detainees, as have officials in Washington.

Bigley's brother on Thursday has criticized the U.S. government, saying the initial report that the Iraqi prisoners would be released was "a shadow of light in a big, long, dark, damp, filthy, cold tunnel."

But the religious leaders in Liverpool supported the British government in its refusal to negotiate with terrorists.

"Whatever you think of his politics, the prime minister is a compassionate person so he clearly will be affected by these appeals (of Kenneth Bigley and his family) but the government has constraints. It is impossible to negotiate with hostage-takers,” said Bishop Jones. “But we in Britain do need to understand how our actions in the Middle East are seen and felt by the Arab world. I hope in the future we will be far more aware of how our actions are seen by other people."

Asked if he believed the kidnappers were capable of showing mercy, Ali said: “There is a spark of mercy in everyone’s heart.

“If we didn't have hope, life would be intolerable. We live in hope and we are hoping and praying that God Almighty will intervene in his own way."

Jones also commented saying, “While Mr. Bigley remains alive, there is hope. That is why we are appealing for his captors to show compassion and we are appealing for people to be prayerful for both Ken Bigley and for his captors, that they show compassion."

Agencies report that more than 130 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq, and at least 26 of them have been killed. Many more Iraqis have also been seized in the chaos since Saddam was ousted last year, in many cases for ransom.