Virginia Man Among Iraq Hostages

By Doug Struck and Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 30, 2005

BAGHDAD, Nov. 29 -- Four Western peace activists, including a longtime resident of Northern Virginia, have been kidnapped in Iraq by a previously unknown insurgent group, and on Tuesday the Arab television network al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape of the men, grim-faced as they sat against a blank wall.

The network said the insurgent group, the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, had accused the four of being American spies. The captives are members of Christian Peacemaker Teams, an antiwar organization based in Chicago. They were taken from their car in western Baghdad on Saturday.

The Christian group identified the captives as Tom Fox, 54, a Quaker who was a longtime resident of Springfield, Va.; James Loney, 41, a community activist from Toronto; Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a Canadian electrical engineer studying in New Zealand; and Norman Kember, 74, a retired professor from London.

In a statement, the Christian organization expressed sorrow over the abductions but directed anger at the United States and Britain.

"We were very saddened to see the images of our loved ones on Al Jazeera television recently," Christian Peacemakers said. "We were disturbed by seeing the video and believe that repeated showing of it will endanger the lives of our friends.

"We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. government due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people," the statement said.

On its Web site, Christian Peacemaker Teams says it is dedicated to reducing international violence and is supported by Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, Church of the Brethren and Friends United Meeting.

Fox, who plays the bass clarinet and served in the U.S. Marine Band, worked as an assistant manager at Whole Foods Market in Springfield until two years ago. He had previously worked at the company's store in Reston.

The divorced father of two college-age children, Fox left his job at Whole Foods to become a trained peacemaker bound for Iraq, friends said, adding that he had been concerned about the U.S. reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Since September 2004, Fox has been living in an apartment outside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad with other members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams.

"When 9/11 happened, he was reading and watching the news and he said he was really overcome by the sense of evil in the world," said Hoyt Maulden, a friend of Fox. "And he was particularly overcome by what he thought was going to be an evil reaction by the United States to the events of 9/11. . . . He wanted to be able to contribute to making peace in the world."

Twice a year, Fox came home from the war front in Iraq for respite and usually spoke to groups at the Langley Hill Friends Meeting in McLean and at the Northern Virginia Mennonite Church in Fairfax City.

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