Two of the three British hostages still being held in Iraq are "very likely" to be dead, it was reported today.
The security guards, identified as Alan McMenemy, from Scotland and Alec MacLachlan, from south Wales were among five Britons kidnapped in Baghdad in 2007.
According to the BBC, the Foreign Office last week told their families that the men were likely to be dead.
The bodies of two of the other hostages, security guards Jason Swindlehurst, 38, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, and Jason Creswell, 39, originally from Glasgow, were handed over to authorities in Baghdad last month.
An inquest found the men died of gunshot wounds, although it is not clear exactly when they died.
The condition of the fifth hostage IT consultant Peter Moore, from Lincoln, is unknown.
The Foreign Office refused to comment on the case, saying it did not discuss operational details.
A spokeswoman said: "We continue to work intensively for the release of the hostages still held in this highly complex case and are extremely concerned for their safety."
The five Britons were seized by about 40 armed men wearing police uniforms at the finance ministry in Baghdad on May 29 2007.
Some friends and relatives of the hostages expressed frustration at the UK's low-key approach to securing their release.
Former Foreign Office minister Kim Howells also questioned whether the UK had negotiated with the right people.
Dr Howells, who was at the Foreign Office from 2005 until October last year and is now chairman of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, also voiced frustration at the difficulty of getting reliable information about the hostages.
Responsibility for the kidnapping was at first pinned on Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.
It was thought to be a retaliatory attack for the killing by British forces of the militia's commander in Basra, southern Iraq, a week earlier.
But al-Sadr's followers denied responsibility and suspicion fell on splinter groups which the US believes are controlled by Iran.
The kidnappers, calling themselves the Islamic Shiite Resistance in Iraq, have issued several videos featuring the captives and making demands.
In February last year a video broadcast by Dubai-based TV station Al-Arabiya showed a bearded and tired-looking Mr Moore asking Mr Brown to free nine Iraqis in exchange for the British hostages.
He said: "All I want is to leave this place. I tell Gordon Brown the matter is simple: release their prisoners so we can go."
The release of leading Shiite insurgent Laith al-Khazali by US forces on June 6 had sparked fresh hopes the Britons could be freed.
Al-Khazali is a senior member of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, which has been linked to the kidnapping.