March 25, 2006

Freed Iraq hostage Kember back in Britain

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - Freed Christian peace campaigner Norman
Kember flew home to Britain on Saturday following his dramatic
dawn rescue by special forces soldiers after being held hostage
in Iraq for nearly four months.

Kember, 74, a retired professor of medical ethics, arrived
at London's Heathrow Airport at 1225 GMT on a scheduled British
Airways flight from Kuwait, where he had been flown in a
British military transport plane from Baghdad on Friday

Relief at his escape was tempered by senior British
military criticism that Kember had apparently failed to thank
the soldiers who rescued him and his colleagues.

"I am slightly saddened that there doesn't seem to have
been a note of gratitude for the soldiers who risked their
lives to save those lives," British Army chief General Michael
Jackson told Channel 4 news on Friday.

Kember was rescued on Thursday with Christian Peacemaker
Teams (CPT) colleagues Harmeet Sooden and Jim Loney -- both
Canadians -- manacled but unhurt and unguarded from a house in
a Sunni insurgent area to the west of the Iraqi capital.

The fourth hostage, American Tom Fox, was found two weeks
ago, tortured and shot dead.

Sooden, 32, and Loney, 41, headed to Baghdad airport on
Saturday to begin their journey home, a colleague said.

Tim Nafziger, a CPT member in London, said his organization
had thanked the military rescuers but had to be careful to
avoid endangering the neutral status of other peace workers in
Iraq and elsewhere.

"The CPT has made clear statements that no soldiers should
risk their lives trying to save them. That has made it a
difficult issue," he said.

"If the CPT are seen to be associated with the occupying
force, they put a barrier between them and the people they are
working with."

The CPT said in a statement published on its Web site: "We
are grateful to the soldiers who risked their lives to free
Jim, Norman and Harmeet.

"As peacemakers who hold firm to our commitment to
non-violence, we are also deeply grateful that they fired no
shots to free our colleagues," it added.

A lifelong committed Christian, Kember had protested
against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and had gone to
Baghdad to spread his message of peace.


Kember's wife Pat had described her husband's decision to
go to Baghdad as "silly," but said she accepted the need he
felt to give his pacifism an active side before he got too old
to do so.

CPT emerged in 1989 out of the Mennonite Central Committee,
the Quaker Friends Society and the Church of Brethren to send
teams of Christians trained in techniques of non-violent action
to conflicts around the world.

It has had a presence in Iraq since 2001.

As a member of the Baptist Peace Fellowship, Kember was
part of the delegation that in September 2002 presented British
Prime Minister Tony Blair with a petition against going to war
in Iraq. He later took part in anti-war demonstrations.

Kember is a trustee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a
Christian peace group, and a trustee of Pax Christi's Christian
Peace Education Fund.

(Additional reporting by Tim Castle)