Mar. 23, 2006. 10:13 AM
A gruelling four-month ordeal for two Canadian peace
activists and a British colleague held hostage in
Iraq ended Thursday in a bloodless military operation
by multinational forces, delighting family and supporters
The freed members of Christian Peacemaker Teams were
taken to hospital for observation in Baghdad but were
released in good condition, the organization said
Jim Loney, 41, of Toronto, Harmeet Sooden, 32, formerly
of Montreal, Norm Kember, 74, of London and an American
co-worker were snatched at gunpoint off the streets
of Baghdad Nov. 26 by a shadowy group of kidnappers.
Families of the three rescued hostages were overjoyed
on getting news of their rescue.
You could say 'euphoric' is the word,
Matt Loney, brother of Jim Loney, told The Canadian
Press from Vancouver.
``Its the happiest day Ive had in 115
In Toronto, the co-director of Christian Peacemaker
Teams expressed delight the three had been released
There were indeed no gunshots fired,
said Doug Pritchard. ``There were no captors present
at the time the men were found.
U.S. Army Gen. Rick Lynch said in Baghdad that coalition
forces were tipped off to where the hostages were
by someone captured Wednesday night.
The rescue operation at about 8 a.m. local time occurred
within three hours of that tip, Lynch said.
The trio had their hands tied behind their backs
when found in an otherwise empty house northwest of
Baghdad, he said.
No one was there, Lynch said. The
three individuals were by themselves.
U.S. and British forces were involved in the operation.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw mentioned that
the Mounties had played a role, but an RCMP spokesman
would not confirm it.
Straw said in London that planning for a rescue operation
had been in the works for weeks and weeks
but declined to provide details. Im delighted
that now we have a happy ending to this terrible ordeal,
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in
a statement he had spoken to the two Canadians and
had expressed happiness on behalf of all
Canadians at their release.
The safe return of these men is what we all
sought, Harper said.
Loneys sister-in-law Donna Laframboise said
their hearts ``definitely jumped when they learned
of the release of the hostages from Loneys parents,
Pat and Claudette, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Were pretty happy about it. I think were
in a bit of shock maybe, a bit of disbelief,
Laframboise said in an interview.
``We hugged each other and there were a few tears
But the earlier murder of the fourth kidnapped Christian
Peacemaker activist, American Tom Fox, 54, of Clear
Brook, Va., cast a pall over the celebration.
Foxs bullet-riddled body was found dumped on
a Baghdad street March 10 just days after his captors
released a video from which he was ominously missing.
We would also like to express our deepest sympathy
to the family of Tom Fox, Laframboise said on
behalf of the Loney family.
Foxs slaying was the lowest point of the ordeal,
Matt Loney said. It was a blow to our hopes
at that point.
Besides have lost about 20 pounds, Jim Loney told
his mother that he was well and that his main concern
was for his parents.
Oh what a joyful day this is! the family
said in a statement.
Loney is expected to return to Canada in the next
few days, and the family hoped to meet him in Toronto
and take him back to the Sault for a little
while, said Ed Loney, another brother.
The Zambian-born Sooden came to Canada from England
in the early 1990s to study at McGill University and
later became a Canadian citizen. He moved to Auckland,
New Zealand, two years ago, where his sister Preety
lives, to study.
Soodens brother-in-law Mark Brewer said relatives
planned to travel to Baghdad to bring him home. Were
just looking forward to getting hold of him, giving
him a big hug, Brewer told TV One News in Auckland.
The freed hostages are members of the Christian Peacemaker
Teams, a non-profit organization dedicated to aggressive
Since the kidnapping, Christian Peacemakers has waged
a relentless media campaign in an effort to convince
the captors, who called themselves the Swords of Righteousness
Brigades, to free the men.
The organization enlisted support from around the
world, including high-profile Muslims, to persuade
the captors that the Peacemakers, too, opposed the
U.S. and British invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Pritchard said he was convinced the men are still
alive because of the commitment to peace and
justice in Iraq.
The kidnappers had denounced the four aid workers
as spies in a videotape broadcast by the Al-Jazeera
network three days after their abduction.
On Dec. 2, the kidnappers released another videotape
in which they threatened to kill the hostages unless
all prisoners held at U.S. and British detention facilities
in Iraq were released by Dec. 8.
The deadline was extended by two days to Dec. 10,
but then came weeks of silence that was finally broken
on Jan. 28, when Al-Jazeera broadcast another videotape
showing the four activists and giving another last
chance to free the prisoners.
On March 7, Al-Jazeera broadcast a new videotape
showing the three activists apparently calling on
their governments to help them. Fox was not in the
Kidnappers in Iraq have taken at least 235 foreigners
hostage and killed nearly 40 over the past two years.
Most have been released, although a number are still
missing and believed held by their abductors
Yoronto, November 29, 2005
NRI (non-resident Indian), Harmeet Singh Sooden,
and James Loney Canadian both members of the Christian
Peacemaker Teams (CPT), were among four aid workers
abducted Saturday at gunpoint in Baghdad.
Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a Canadian electrical engineer,
was described by his family as being peaceful
and fun-loving and he is known to be passionate about
the plight of the underprivileged around the globe.
Mr. Loney, 41, a community worker from Toronto, had
spent many years working with the city's homeless
before joining the organization in 2000. He had been
leading the group before he was abducted.
Tom Fox, 51, of Clearbrook, Va., and long-time British
peace activist, Norman Kember, 74, were also among
those abducted, the group said in a statement Tuesday.
Al-Jazeera reported that a group calling itself the
Swords of Righteousness Brigade claimed responsibility
for the kidnappings and has accused the four of being
spies working undercover as Christian peace activists.
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has been in Iraq
since October 2002, providing first-hand, independent
reports from detainees of both U.S. and Iraqi forces,
and training others in non-violent intervention and
human rights documentation.
The group said Tuesday its members were aware of
the risks of doing humanitarian work in war-torn nations
but feel the threat does not outweigh the potential
benefit of remaining.
Terrorists will try to destabilize the situation
during the election period in order to discourage
people from voting, police Maj. Falah Mohammedawi
said. They will try to do this through kidnappings,
assassinations and threats to citizens. We have our
complete security plan to confront this.