Two Canadians held hostage in Iraq
CBC News Online | March 27, 2006
On Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005, four western humanitarian workers were grabbed by gunmen off a Baghdad street. A day later, officials with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa confirmed that two of the four men were Canadian and that the federal government was working for their release.
By the following Tuesday, it was revealed that the four men worked for Christian Peacemaker Teams and that they were being held by a previously unknown group, the Swords of Righteousness Brigade.
The men were identified as 41-year-old James Loney of Toronto, 32-year-old Harmeet Singh Sooden, formerly of Montreal, Norman Kember from London, England, and Tom Fox, 54, from the United States.
The kidnappers threatened to kill the four unless the U.S. released all Iraqi detainees by Dec. 8. The hostages later appeared in a video dated Jan. 21. The kidnappers released the tape Jan. 28 and again demanded the release of Iraqi prisoners.
In March 2006, Fox's tortured body was found in Baghdad. Later that month, Loney, Sooden and Kember were rescued by a special team of coalition troops that included Canadian forces.
March 26, 2006:
Former hostage James Loney returns home to Toronto. Harmeet Singh Sooden returns to Auckland, New Zealand, where he attends teacher's college. Briton Norman Kember is reunited with his family in England.
March 23, 2006:
A military operation, involving British, American, Canadian and Iraqi forces, frees Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 33, along with Briton Norman Kember, 76. No shots were fired during the operation. The three were abducted in Baghdad in November, along with American Tom Fox. His body was found on March 10.
March 7, 2006:
The Arab all-news satellite channel, Al-Jazeera, broadcasts a brief videotape showing three of the four peace activists taken hostage in Iraq. Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Sooden, and Briton Norman Kember appear on the tape. The tape is broadcast without sound, but Al-Jazeera says the men asked their governments and Persian Gulf countries to work for their release. The tape was time-stamped Feb. 28.
Feb. 21, 2006:
Shortly after expressing optimism about the hostages' release, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay says he has no new information about the two Canadians being held in Iraq.
Feb. 20, 2006:
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay says he believes Loney and Sooden, and two other Westerners taken hostage in Iraq, are still alive. MacKay says he's "very optimistic" that the hostages will be released safely.
Jan. 28, 2005:
The kidnappers of the four Western peace activists release a new videotape, dated Jan. 21, showing the hostages standing against a wall in a dimly lit room. In a statement, the kidnappers say U.S.-led forces have one "last chance" to release Iraqi prisoners or they will kill the hostages.
Dec. 26, 2005
Ed Loney, left, Matthew Loney, back, Donna Loney, right, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
The families of four Western peace activists abducted in Iraq make another plea for their release, this time through an advertisement broadcast on Iraqi radio. Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Sooden, 32, Briton Norman Kember, 74, and American Tom Fox, 54, were abducted a month earlier.
Dec. 23, 2005
Relatives of Canadian hostage James Loney say Christmas will be a more muted event this year as they wait for any news of his fate. A brother, Edward Loney, said that Christmas was "not really part of our agenda right now."
Dec. 12, 2005:
The fate of the four Western hostages remains unknown 48 hours after a deadline their captors had set expired. Kidnappers had threatened to kill the four - including two Canadians - on Dec. 10, unless all Iraqi prisoners were released. The hostages are members of the human-rights organization Christian Peacemaker Teams who went to Baghdad to investigate allegations of abuses against Iraqi detainees.
Dec. 9, 2005:
- CBC Story: Fate of Canadian hostages in Iraq still unknown
Ehab Lotayef, an envoy from the Canadian Islamic Congress, continued to work towards freeing the four Western hostages in Baghdad. The kidnappers had extended a deadline to Saturday, Dec. 10, for the four to be executed. They're demanding that the release of all detained Iraqis.
Dec. 8, 2005:
In another video broadcast by Al-Jazeera, American Tom Fox, 54, and Briton Norman Kember, 74, are shown in orange jumpsuits with their hands chained and eyes taped over. Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Sooden are not shown. The U.S. and Britain have troops in Iraq. Canada does not.
Dec. 7, 2005:
The group holding four Westerners – including two Canadians – hostage extends a deadline for execution until Saturday, Dec. 10. The kidnappers earlier threatened to kill the hostages on Dec. 8, unless the U.S. released all Iraqi detainees.
Earlier in the day, relatives of Jim Loney told reporters that they continue to hold out hope for his release. Speaking from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Loney's family thanks all those working to free him, and express their hope of seeing that happen soon.
"We want James home," said his brother, Matthew Loney. "We want the other members home. And we want a peaceful resolution to how things are going over there," he said.
Dec. 6, 2005:
In a new video posted on the internet, the two Canadian hostages say they are being treated well. The tape shows the Canadians unshackled while an American and Briton who were kidnapped with them, are handcuffed. The images were dated Dec. 2.
Dec. 5, 2005:
Muslim scholars and activists from around the world appeal for the release of four Western peace activists – including two Canadians – kidnapped in Iraq last week. The appeal was supported by leaders of the militant Hamas and Hizbollah groups.
Meanwhile, officials confirm that a videotape made by relatives of the Canadian hostages in which they appeal for the release of their loved ones, was broadcast on Arabic television over the weekend.
Dec. 4, 2005:
Christian Peacemaker Teams member Canadian James Loney, of Toronto, is seen in this undated handout photo. (CP PHOTO/HO, Christian Peacemaker Teams)
The organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams, releases a videotaped plea from the families of Jim Loney and Harmeet Sooden for the safe release of their loved ones.
Loney's sister, Kathleen Weir, referred to her brother's role in advocating for Iraqi detainees on behalf of the aid group.
"We want him to be able to continue the work that is just so important to him with the Iraqi people," Weir said.
The organization released the tape, hoping that Arab networks would broadcast it.
Dec. 3, 2005:
Christian Peacemaker Teams member Canadian Harmeet Sing Sooden is seen in this undated handout photo. (CP PHOTO/HO, Christian Peacemaker Teams)
A leading member of Britain’s Muslim community travels to Baghdad to try to secure the release of Canadians Jim Loney, Harmeet Sooden, Norman Kember (a Briton) and Tom Fox (an American), who were taken hostage on Nov. 26.
Anas Altikriti, an anti-war activist and former president of the Muslim Association of Britain, met with political and community groups shortly after his arrival.
In Canada, the parents and sister of Jim Loney tell CBC News they discussed the risks he would be facing in Iraq as part of his duties for the humanitarian group Christian Peacemaker Teams.
“He was going on his second tour, and I told him, ‘you know, you're asking for big trouble if something goes wrong,’" said Loney’s father, Patrick,. "I said ‘you're in a war now, this isn't child's play.’ He says, 'I know.'"
Jim Loney’s sister, Kathleen Weir, said her brother was determined to go to Iraq, despite the risk.
Dec. 2, 2005:
Arab television network Al-Jazeera broadcasts a video tape in which the kidnappers of four Western peace activists – including two Canadians – threaten to kill the hostages unless all prisoners in American or Iraqi detention centres are released by Dec. 8.
The tape showed what Al-Jazeera said were the four hostages eating and appearing frightened.
Dec. 1, 2005:
Palestinian activists gather in the main square in Ramallah to demand the release of the four hostages in Iraq. Three of the four – including the two Canadians - had worked in the West Bank over the past five years, helping with the harvest and joining protests against Israel's security wall.
Nov. 30, 2005:
Christian Peacemaker Teams blames the U.S. occupation of Iraq for the abduction of Canadians Jim Loney and Harmeet Sooden and two others in Baghdad.
"We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. governments due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people," the group said in a statement on its web site.
Nov. 29, 2005
A Christian aid group says four hostages – including two Canadians – who were kidnapped in Baghdad three days earlier, are members of their organization. Christian Peacemaker Teams identified the two Canadians as 41-year-old James Loney of Toronto and 32-year-old Harmeet Singh Sooden, formerly of Montreal.
The group – whose goal is to reduce violence worldwide – denies claims by the kidnappers that the four men were spies for forces occupying Iraq.
Prime Minister Paul Martin says the government is in touch with the families and is working on their behalf.
Nov. 28, 2005
The federal government says it is working for the release of two Canadians who were kidnapped in Baghdad two days earlier. The Canadians were among four humanitarian workers who disappeared.
The Department of Foreign Affairs would only say it was “closely monitoring the situation.” A spokesman refused to release the identities of the missing men.
Nov. 27, 2005
The Department of Foreign Affairs says four humanitarian workers – including two Canadians – were kidnapped in Baghdad a day earlier. Dan McTeague, the parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, said the abduction starkly illustrated the dangers in the Mideast country, which his department warned all Canadians to avoid in an April 2004 advisory.
More than 200 foreigners had been kidnapped in Iraq in the previous 18 months, including two other Canadians. One those Canadians was among the 38 foreign hostages executed by kidnappers. The other escaped two months after she was taken hostage.
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