The Iraqi government has released 147 prisoners, affiliated to a Shiite insurgent group and charged with abduction of five Britons, following talks between the two sides, Al-Mashrriq newspaper reported on Monday.
Salam al-Maliki, representative of the group called Assaib Al- Haq (Righteousness Leagues) in talks with the government, was quoted as saying that 23 of their members was released on Saturday, 87 freed last week and 37 others on Sunday.
Assaib Al-Haq, which had split from Al-Mahdi Army led by the radical Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, was charged with abducting five Britons in Baghdad more than two years ago.
Salam Al-Maliki, former Transport Minister, representing al- Sadr's bloc in former Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's government, said the release is "part of an accord between the group and the current Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki." He did not elaborate the accord.
The U.S. forces in Iraq have released three leading members of Assaib Al-Haq -- Hadi al-Darraji, Hassan Salem, Laith al-Khaza'ali, who is brother of the group's secretary-general, Qais al-Khaza'ali, the newspaper added.
Forty armed men wearing police uniform abducted Peter Moore, a British computer programmer working for the U.S. government, along with four of his British bodyguards working for a Canadian security firm, from the Iraqi Finance Ministry premises on May 29, 2007.
The British Embassy in Baghdad has received the bodies of three of the bodyguards, who have spent a long period under custody.
Britain believes that the fourth may also have been killed. British officials expressed conviction that Moore could still be alive, but did not define his whereabouts.
(Xinhua News Agency September 29, 2009)