LONDON, ENGLAND - A British computer expert and his four bodyguards kidnapped in Iraq in 2007 were seized in an operation masterminded by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, media reported Thursday.
Peter Moore was released unharmed Wednesday after an 'unspeakable' kidnap ordeal during which three of the bodyguards died.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his government hailed Moore's release, which it said was due to improved reconciliation in the violence-scarred country.
A militia group in Iraq, the League of the Righteous, has been held responsible for the kidnapping from a government ministry building in Baghdad.
But the Guardian newspaper reported that the Revolutionary Guard led the operation and took the five to Iran within a day of their abduction.
The BBC also quoted the US's former commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, as saying he was '90 per cent certain' that the group was held in Iran for part of their time in capitivity.
Petraeus was quoted by a correspondent as saying earlier this month: 'I'm absolutely certain. I'm 90 per cent certain' when asked if they were taken to Iran, adding: 'I'm pretty sure I've seen hard intelligence on it.'
Moore was targeted because he was installing a computer tracking system that would show how vast amounts of international aid money from Iraqi institutions was diverted to Iran's militia groups in Iraq, according to the Guardian.
A former unnamed Revolutionary Guard said the five were held in two camps including one known as Qasser Shiereen close to the Iraqi border.
'It was an Iranian kidnap, led by the Revolutionary Guard, carried out by the Al-Quds brigade,' he was quoted saying on the paper's website.
'My contact works for Al-Quds. He took part in the planning of the kidnap and he watched the kidnapping as it was taking place. He told me that they spent two days at the Qasser Shiereen camp.
'They then took them deep inside Iran.'
An unnamed Iraqi government minister reportedly backed up the claims.
'This was an IRG (Iranian Revolutionary Guard) operation,' he said.
Britain's Foreign Office told the paper: 'We have no evidence that the British hostages, including Peter Moore, were held in Iran.
'We are not in a position to say with any certainty where they were held during each and every single day of their two-and-a-half years in captivity.'
The US army has handed over members of the League of the Righteous group who had been held prisoner to the Iraqi government, a spokesman said Wednesday, shortly after Moore was freed, raising speculation of a deal over his release.
The bodies of two of the bodyguards were handed over to Britain in June, followed by that of a third in September. The fate of the fourth is unknown although British officials believe he may be dead.