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US, UK Forces Rescue Peacenik Hostage Dupes


Think how embarrasing it must be for them.

A chagrined AFP brings the news:

hree hostages held captive in Iraq for four months, Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden (left and center), and Briton Norman Kember, were freed Thursday.

Three Western hostages rescued in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) – In a lightning operation, US and British forces rescued three Western hostages held captive in
Iraq for almost four months, as a string of bombings elsewhere in Baghdad left over 30 dead.

The three aid workers from the Christian Peacemaker Teams — Canadians Harmeet Sooden, 32, and Jim Loney, 41, and Briton Norman Kember, 74 — were found together in a house in western Baghdad. They were bound, but the house was otherwise empty and not a shot was fired.

The raid was put together in just three hours after US forces obtained information from a detainee about the location of the hostages, US-led coalition spokesman Major General Rick Lynch told reporters.

Their US colleague Tom Fox, seized with them in Baghdad on November 26, was slain two weeks ago and his body found dumped in the city.

"Coalition forces conducted an operation and came up with two detainees. These two detainees provided actionable intelligence about the location of the Christian Peacemaker Teams hostages," Lynch said.

"From the time we found the intelligence to the time we released the hostages was three hours," he added.

"We moved to the location in western Baghdad… we conducted an assault on the house and inside the house we found the three hostages," he said.

They were "in relatively good condition," he added.

One of their colleague’s, Peggy Gifh, who met with them for an hour Thursday said: "They looked good, there was no sign of physical mistreatment."

"The food was inadequate, but their minds were sharp," said Gifh who works for the pacifist non-governmental organisation in Iraq.

They were kept together in a room, and not blindfolded or handcuffed all the time, she said. They were sometimes able to walk about the room.

They also found out about the fate of the fourth member of the team, Fox, who was held separately from them, she said.

"The last time they saw him was 40 days ago when he was taken away," she said. They overheard from one of their captors and from a TV that he was killed but they were not sure about it," Gifh added.

US and British officials declined to give details about the operation, which included members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, emphasising the importance of surprise should the need for such tactics arise again.

The abduction had been claimed by a group calling itself the Brigades of the Swords of Righteousness, which threatened to kill the hostages unless all Iraqi prisoners were released.

Lynch said "this seems to be a kidnapping cell that has been robust over the last several months" in abducting people.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Kember was recovering in Baghdad’s top-security Green Zone where the British and US embassies are based. But the two Canadians needed hospital treatment, he added.

"It’s great to be free," Kember told his hosts, a British embassy spokeswoman said. "I’m looking forward to getting back to the UK," he added.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised the operation which freed two of his fellow citizens, while a Downing Street spokesman said British Prime Minister
Tony Blair was "delighted by the news."

The three freed hostages last appeared in a video broadcast on pan-Arab satellite television Al-Jazeera on March 7, in which they issued a new appeal for their governments to work for their release.

Fox, who did not appear in the video, was found handcuffed and shot dead on a rubbish dump in west Baghdad on March 9. His body had been wrapped in a blanket and stuffed in a plastic bag.

At least 430 foreigners are known to have been taken hostage in Iraq since the March 2003 US-led invasion, a US diplomat said in Baghdad earlier this month. They include 41 US nationals, some of them Iraqi-Americans.

Seven westerners are still being held, including US journalist Jill Carroll, a 28-year-old freelance journalist who was on assignment for the Christian Science Monitor when she was abducted on January 7.

She has since appeared in three videos broadcast on Arab television. The latest deadline set by her captors passed in late February with no word on her fate.

Don’t worry. It won’t be a big story in our one party media.

They couldn’t even supply a non-cockeyed photo of the briefing.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, March 23rd, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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