Al Qaeda Cell 'Beheads British Hostage'
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has condemned the apparent "barbaric" killing of a British hostage held in the Sahara by an al Qaeda cell.
Tourist Edwin Dyer was captured on the border between Niger and Mali and held hostage for more than four months before claims of his murder emerged.
The Briton and three tourists - two Swiss citizens and a German woman also taken hostage - were returning from a music festival, near Timbuktu, on January 22.
Terror group al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrebsaid (AQIM) said on a website it had killed Mr Dyer and that disbelievers would be "smitten in the neck".
A London newspaper reported that the hostage had been beheaded.
"We have strong reason to believe that a British citizen, Edwin Dyer, has been murdered by an al Qaeda cell in Mali," Mr Brown said in a statement.
"I utterly condemn this appalling and barbaric act of terrorism."
AQIM had said it would kill Mr Dyer if the British government did not release Abu Qatada, a Jordanian Islamist in jail in the UK.
The cell, on the website used by al Qaeda-linked groups, now says the killing was carried out on May 31 after a second deadline for meeting its demands expired.
"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 went on.
"Let Gordon Brown and his aggressor government reap the fruits of their thoughtless policies towards Muslims."
Mr Brown said: "I want those who would use terror against British citizens to know beyond doubt that we and our allies will pursue them relentlessly."
"I have regularly discussed this case with the president of Mali - he knows that he will have every support in rooting out al Qaeda from his country."
Qatada was named by a Spanish judge as the right-hand man in Europe of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
The cleric has been held in Britain since 2005. He denies belonging to the group.
Britain has described him as a "significant international terrorist" but said it does not have enough evidence to put him on trial.
It wants to deport him on grounds of national security, but Appeal Court judges ruled last year he would not face a fair trial in Jordan.