Three of four Christian peace activists kidnapped in Iraq more than three months ago appeared in a video that aired on the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera on Tuesday.
Tuesday, March 7, 2006 Posted: 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Three of four Christian peace activists kidnapped in Iraq more than three months ago appeared in a video that aired on the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera on Tuesday.
Although the 25-second video that aired was silent, an Al-Jazeera anchor said the three men were pleading for their home governments and Gulf Arab leaders to assist with securing their release.
On the tape were British citizen Norman Kember, as well as two Canadians, James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden. They were among four members of the Christian Peacemakers Team abducted November 26.
The fourth hostage, American Tom Fox, did not appear on the tape and his status was not mentioned.
They were seized by a group that calls itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, which has threatened to kill them if Iraqi prisoners held by the United States and Iraq are not released, but several deadlines have passed.
The date of February 28, 2006 was superimposed on the tape. In the video, the three men are seated, and no hostage-takers were visible.
"To release a video of this kind is obviously extremely distressing for the relatives and our thoughts are with them as well as with the victims, who have been held now for more than 100 days," the British Foreign Office said in a statement.
"They are peace campaigners dedicated to helping other people and should be freed immediately to spare both them and their families further distress."
A Foreign Office spokeswoman told the UK Press Association: "We are obviously concerned that only three of the four hostages appear to be shown on the footage. We hope that all four are well and will be released unharmed."
The Christian Peacemakers Team also issued a statement calling for the hostages’ release.
"We continue to pray for their safe and speedy release so that they may return to their families and carry on their peaceful work on behalf of all Iraqi detainees," the group’s statement said.
"In the latest video we were so glad to see Jim Loney alive. We were so glad to see Harmeet Sooden alive. We were so glad to see Norman Kember alive. We do not know what to make of Tom Fox’s absence from this video."
The group’s statement added: "We also hold in our hearts the families of 14,600 Iraqis currently detained illegally by the multinational forces in Iraq who likewise await the release of their loved ones.
"These detainees are being held without formal charges, without access to their families and legal advisers, and without recourse to a fair and open judicial process.
"We believe that the root cause of the abduction of our colleagues is the US and British-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. Many in Iraq have experienced this long war as terrorism. The occupation must end," the statement added.
"Now is the time for those holding our colleagues Harmeet, Norman, Jim and Tom to release them back to the care of their families, and back to the peacemaking work which inspired them to come to Iraq."
A friend of Kember, Sue Claydon, told Sky News: "I think he knows, mentally not factually, that he is being supported by people around the world from all faiths and none, with their thoughts and prayers, and I’m sure that’s making a big difference."
Asked how he would be coping with his ordeal, she added: "I’m sure Norman has the kind of faith that will stand up to that trial."
On Sunday, prayers were said throughout Britain to mark 100 days since the men were taken hostage.