THE British government says there is “strong reason to believe” that a British citizen has been killed by al-Qaeda militants in north-west Africa.
Edwin Dyer was kidnapped in Niger in January, but was being held in Mali.
The group had said it would kill Dyer if the British government refused to release radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada from a UK prison. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned what he called an “appalling and barbaric act of terrorism”.
Abu Qatada is awaiting extradition to Jordan, where he was convicted of terrorism offences in his absence and faces life in jail.
The militants posted a statement on an Islamist website announcing the killing.
“The British captive was killed so that he, and with him the British state, may taste a tiny portion of what innocent Muslims taste every day at the hands of the Crusader and Jewish coalition to the east and to the west,”
In a posting last month, the group said Abu Qatada must be released within 20 days orÂ Dyer would be killed.
The British Foreign Office advises against all travel to parts of Mali and Niger.
Its website states that there is “a high threat of kidnapping” and a “high threat from terrorism”, especially in the border region.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: “Hostage-taking and murder can never be justified whatever the cause.”
Abu Qatada was once described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”.
He was granted asylum in the UK in 1994, but went on the run in 2001 on the eve of government moves to introduce new anti-terror laws allowing suspects to be detained without charge or trial.
In October 2002, he was caught and taken to Belmarsh Prison, but was freed on bail in March 2005, subject to a control order.
He was taken back into custody in August that year and held until June 2008. After another short period of freedom, he was detained again in December last year and remains in Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire, pending extradition. —— BBC.