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British Hostage Beheaded in Iraq

Despite international appeals for his release, Kenneth Bigley, the British hostage kidnapped last month by an insurgent group in Baghdad, has been killed by his captors. They released a video of the beheading.

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Bigley pleaded for Tony Blair to help save his life in an earlier video

The inital news of Bigley's killing was broadcast on Friday by Abu Dhabi television saying it received the information on Bigley's killing from "informed sources" in Baghdad, which said the 62-year-old engineer was beheaded in the town of Latifiya, 35 kilometers (22 miles) southwest of the Iraqi capital.

Later, a Reuters witness reported Muslim militants released a video showing them beheading Bigley. He was shown making a statement as six insurgents stood behind him. After he finished, one of the militants cut off his head with a knife.

Kidnapped along with two others

The group which kidnapped Bigley and two Americans from an upscale neighborhood in Baghdad on Sept. 16 called itself Tawhid wal Jihad (Unity and Holy War). The group is led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man considered by the United States its worst enemy in Iraq.

Kidnappers initially demanded that coalition forces in Iraq release all female Muslim women being held in Iraqi jails. Washington has claimed that it is holding only two women, both high-ranking weapons scientists in Saddam Hussein's regime. Britain denies holding any female prisoners.

The Americans kidnapped along with Bigley, Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley, were decapitated by their captors, graphic videos of which were posted on the Internet. A video of Bigley pleading with British Prime Minister Tony Blair was also put on a Web site.

He was last heard from on September 29, when Al-Jazeera Television broadcast a video of him squatting behind metal meshing, again addressing Prime Minister Blair.

"I am begging you for my life. Have some compassion please," he said as he implored the British leader to meet his captors' demands.

Downing Street had said it would not negotiate with the insurgents.

Spate of kidnappings

There has been a spate of kidnappings as part of attempts to undermine the US-led coalition in Iraq. Around 30 hostages are thought to have been killed in Iraq since a wave of kidnappings started in April.

However, some hostages taken captive by insurgent groups have been released. Two Italian aid workers kidnapped on Sept. 7, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, were released last week. Two French hostages, journalists Christian Chesnot and George Malbrunot, are still being held, but by a different group than the one which held Bigley.

There had been a concerted, international effort to win the Briton's release. His family -- an ailing mother in Liverpool, his Thai wife near Bangkok and a brother living in Amsterdam -- had all issued emotional appeals to his captors. On Wednesday, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi added his voice to those calling for his freedom.

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