Hostage pleads for troop withdrawal in Iraq

British hostage Norman Kember has called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to withdraw British troops from Iraq in a new video.

The video, which was shown on the Internet, showed Mr Kember, 74, in handcuffs and shackles, along with the three other hostages, seized along with him in Baghdad nearly two weeks ago.

In the video, Mr Kember is heard to say: “I ask Mr Blair to take British troops out of Iraq and leave the Iraqi people to come to their own decisions on their government.”

Mr Kember, from Pinner, London, was seized in the Iraqi capital on November 26, along with three other hostages – Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32 and American Tom Fox, 54.

All of the hostages are peace activists, who are part of the Christian Peacemaker Team, a Canada-based international peace group.

Their captors are a previously unknown group, calling itself the Swords of Truth Brigade, who have accused the hostages of being spies.

Last Friday, al-Jazeera broadcast a video in which the hostages’ captors threatened to execute them on Thursday, unless all Iraqi prisoners in US and Iraqi detention centres were released.

On Friday, British anti-war campaigner, Anas Altikriti, was sent to Iraq by the British Anti-War Movement – comprised of the Muslim Association of Britain, the Stop the War Coalition and CND – in an attempt to secure the release of the hostages.

The Christian Peacemaker Team released a statement on Tuesday, calling for the release of the hostages. It said: “While we believe the action of kidnapping is wrong, we do not condemn you as people.

“We recognise the humanity in each person, and respect it very much. This includes you, our colleagues and all people.

“We believe there needs to be a force that counters all then resentment, the fear, the intimidation felt by the Iraqi people.

“We are trying to be that force, to speak for justice, to advocate for the human rights of Iraqis, to look at an Iraqi face and say ‘my brother, my sister’.”


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