AMSTERDAM - Armed intelligence officers yesterday raided the Amsterdam home of Paul Bigley, the brother of British hostage Ken Bigley, in the hunt for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the Arab terrorist group which is believed to be holding him.
An intelligence officer from the Foreign Office is alleged to have accompanied the Dutch intelligence officers during the raid. They seized Mr Bigley's computer and interrogated him about his alleged contacts with the Tawhid and Jihad group, which yesterday claimed responsibility for the Baghdad car bombings that claimed the lives of at least 35 children.
Material from Mr Bigley's computer hard-disk was downloaded and sent back for analysis in Britain and he was also forced to make a five-page statement.
Mr Bigley angrily denied he had any direct contacts with the terrorist group, headed by the Jordanian, who is believed to have personally carried out the beheadings of Kenneth Bigley's two American fellow captives.
He told friends that he was frightened by the raid. "He felt intimidated by their behaviour which was aggressive. He feels as though he is being treated like a criminal," said one ally of the family.
"He has no problem with them taking copies of all his e-mails. He is just angry that they have disrupted his campaign to get his brother freed."
Labour MPs were furious. Alan Simpson, the Labour MP leading the Labour against the War group, said: "It is bizarre that the British and Dutch authorities are treating members of the Bigley family like the enemy instead of al-Zarqawi or al-Qa'ida."
Mr Bigley insisted his only contacts with the captors were through al-Jazeera, the Arab television station, who were passing on his messages to al-Zarqawi's group. He denied having any direct contact with the group.
Paul Bigley last week warned Labour supporters at a fringe meeting at Labour's party conference in Brighton that Mr Blair was risking signing his brother's "death warrant" by not intervening personally with the captors.
There were fears among Labour MPs last night that the raid on Mr Bigley was intended to shut him up.
Having seen the two Americans butchered, the family rejected Foreign Office advice to keep a low profile to allow patient diplomacy to yield results. Instead, Paul Bigley and other members of the Bigley family have mobilised public opinion worldwide, including winning the support of Yasser Arafat.
The campaign has angered Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi prime minister, who protested at the media playing into the hands of the terrorists by giving prominence to photographs of Kenneth Bigley chained in a cage. Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, also have been disconcerted by the family's claims that they have done too little and that Kenneth Bigley's blood will be on their hands, if he is executed.
Yesterday, thousands of leaflets carrying a plea from senior British Muslims to the kidnappers holding Mr Bigley that their actions are incompatible with the Islamic faith, were distributed in Baghdad.
© 2004 The Independent Ltd.