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British man executed by al-Qaida in Sahara

Al-QAIDA's North African wing said yesterday it had carried out its threat to kill a British hostage it was holding in the Sahara.

The United Kingdom said it had reason to believe the hostage, Edwin Dyer, had been killed and Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned the killing as "a barbaric act of terrorism" and said the killers would be hunted down.

An official source in Algeria said: "The Briton, according to our information, has been killed by AQIM (al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb) in Mali."

The group had said it would kill the Briton if the British government did not release Abu Qatada, a Jordanian Islamist it is holding in prison.

Dyer was killed on May 31 after a second deadline for the group's demands expired, it said in a statement on a Website used by al-Qaida-linked groups.

"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," the statement said.

It is the first time AQIM has killed a hostage.

"This marks a big change. It will change a lot of things as this is the first time someone has actually been killed," said Jeremy Keenan, author of "The Dark Sahara: America's War On Terror In Africa."

The British Foreign Office said Dyer was kidnapped on the border between Niger and Mali in late January.

According to The Times newspaper, Dyer was one of a group of European tourists kidnapped after attending the African music "Festival in the Desert" near Timbuktu.

AQIM has claimed responsibility for kidnapping two Canadian diplomats and four European tourists in the past five months.

The two diplomats and two of the tourists were freed in April. A Swiss citizen remains in captivity.


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