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Colleague tells of Iraq kidnap shock 16 February
A member of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) has
spoken of the group's disbelief at learning that four of their
colleagues, including Aucklander Harmeet Singh Sooden, had
been kidnapped in Iraq.
Mr Sooden, a 32-year-old Canadian citizen
who has been studying at Auckland University, was kidnapped in
Baghdad on November 26 along with Briton Norman Kember,
American Tom Fox and Canadian James Loney.
The previously unknown Swords of
Righteousness Brigade threatened to kill the men if the United
States and Britain did not release detainees in Iraq by
A videotape showing the hostages released
at the end of January reiterated the demand and the threats
but gave no deadline.
Greg Rollins, a Canadian member of CPT in
Baghdad at the time of the kidnapping, said on Canadian
international news website Embassy that the kidnapping shocked
The group, which promotes non-violent
alternatives to conflict, was aware of the risks of being
kidnapped, injured or killed but did not dwell on them as this
created fear, Mr Rollins said.
But on November 26 he was informed by his
translator that four of his colleagues had been kidnapped.
"At first I thought it was a joke," he
"I asked our translator to repeat what he
said. When I realised he was serious, I informed the team and
we went straight to work."
The next two weeks were a blur of phone
calls, meetings, interviews and writing statements.
"The videos that the abductors made of
our colleagues and aired on TV broke our hearts, but made us
glad to see our friends were alive and looking well. It gave
Then came the waiting. The video
statements from the kidnappers stopped. There were fewer
statements of support. We grew restless; we grew tense," he
"Again, we refused to dwell on the risks
of our work. We refused to live in fear," he said.
In the New Year Mr Rollins' time in Iraq
ended, but he left with mixed feelings, not knowing the fate
of his colleagues.
"My family and friends are important, but
after the kidnapping everything else in Canada pales in
comparison," Mr Rollins said.
"I already know that the people near to
me in Canada are safe. I can't say the same about my four
kidnapped colleagues. Knowing that made it hard to leave."
Earlier this month Mr Sooden's sister in
Auckland said her brother had been in Iraq just a week when he
"He was always interested in making
people safer," Ms Brewer said.
"But that was one of the first times he's
done something so hands-on."
Ms Brewer said the latest video brought
mixed feelings - she was happy to see her brother alive but
disappointed he was still in captivity.
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