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Iraq Transition

Iraqi police: U.S. hostage shot, tortured

Tom Fox among four peace activists kidnapped in November


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Tom Fox
United States

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Slain American hostage Tom Fox was shot in the head and his body showed signs of torture, Iraqi emergency police told CNN on Saturday.

Fox, 54, a Quaker from Clear Brook, Virginia, and three other members of Christian Peacemaker Teams were abducted on November 26, 2005.

There has been no word on other hostages -- Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, and 74-year-old Briton Norman Kember -- who were last seen in a video broadcast Tuesday on Arab television.

Fox's body was found around 5 p.m. Thursday wrapped in a blanket in the Daoudi neighborhood in western Baghdad. It was dumped on the main road near a train station. His hands and feet were bound, police said. He was wearing gray trousers and a gray shirt.

Police discovered the body and then contacted an Iraqi army patrol that was nearby. The Iraqi army also determined that the body appeared to be of a Westerner, and U.S. forces were called to the scene.

A spokesman for the U.S. military confirmed they picked up the body Thursday evening, and it was later determined to be that of Fox.

More than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Fifty-four foreign hostages are known to have been killed by their captors, Reuters reported.

"In grief we tremble before God who wraps us with compassion. The death of our beloved colleague and friend pierces us with pain," a statement from Christian Peacemaker Teams said.

"We mourn the loss of Tom Fox, who combined a lightness of spirit, a firm opposition to all oppression and the recognition of God in everyone.

"We renew our plea for the safe release of Harmeet Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember," the statement said.

The brief video of those three hostages was aired Tuesday on the Arabic-language TV station Al-Jazeera. Noticeably absent from the video was Fox, and his status was not mentioned.

A group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness Brigade claimed responsibility for the abductions, and had threatened to kill the men if Iraqi prisoners held by the United States and Iraq were not released.

Fox's death was announced by the U.S. State Department on Friday.

"The FBI has verified the identity of a body found in Iraq," said spokesman Noel Clay. "While additional forensic testing will be completed in the United States, we believe this is the body of Tom Fox."

He said Fox's family was notified, and he offered them the department's "heartfelt condolences."

'We know the risks'

Doug Pritchard, co-director of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Toronto, said the humanitarian organization planned to maintain its presence in Iraq, at least until the fate of the other captives is known. The group has five workers in the country in addition to the remaining captives.

"We know the risks involved. It's very much a part of our training," Pritchard told a news conference late Friday.

He and co-director Carol Rose in Chicago blamed the U.S. involvement in Iraq, backed by Britain, for the captives' dilemma, and urged both nations to release detained Iraqis.

Rose said Fox was "a very quiet man, very thoughtful and had a very subtle and quiet sense of humor."

In McLean, Virginia, a member of the Council for American-Islamic Relations said Iraqis often don't realize that organizations such as Christian Peacemaker Teams are in the country to help.

"We hope that the Iraqi people and especially the kidnappers realize that the hostages that they have taken are friends of the Iraqi people," said Nihad Awad outside the building where Fox attended Quaker meetings. "They're not part of the conflict. They went there to help. They went there knowing that they're risking their lives. They should have been honored." (Watch as friends and colleagues remember Fox -- 1:52)

Although Tuesday's 25-second video that aired was silent, an Al-Jazeera anchor said the three men were pleading with their home governments and Gulf Arab leaders to assist with securing their release.

The date of February 28, 2006 was superimposed on the tape. In the video, the men were seated, and no one else was visible. (Full story)

There have been other videotapes of the men, including one released on an Islamist Web site in December that showed the hostages wearing orange jumpsuits and speaking individually to the camera.

In it, Fox and Kember were blindfolded and their hands chained.

"I'd like to offer my pleas to the people of America, not to the government of America, a plea for my release from captivity and also a plea for a release from captivity of all the people of Iraq," Fox said.

"The only way that we can all be free is for the American and British soldiers to leave Iraq as soon as possible."

Pleas to free captives

Kember, speaking in a tired, raspy voice, said: "I have been opposed to this war, Mr. (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair's war, since the very beginning. I ask of him now, and the British government, to do all that they can to work for my release and the release of the Iraqi people from oppression."

In response, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said his government was open to hearing from the captors, but that the group's demands were ones that "plainly, no government could meet."

There have been many international calls for the men's release, including pleas from Muslim clerics.

Pritchard, the Christian Peacemaker Teams co-director, said he was with Fox not long before he was kidnapped, when there was a special group meeting. The day before his abduction, Fox wrote an essay in which he asked, "Why are we here?"

"We are here to root out all aspects of dehumanization that exists within us. We are here to stand with those being dehumanized by oppressors and stand firm against that dehumanization," he wrote.

Fox's friend, John Surr, said Fox felt his calling in Iraq was worth the potential risk.

"He was willing to go in there at all costs," Surr said.

Fox had two children, according to Christian Peacemaker Teams. He enjoyed cooking and playing music on his recorder and bass clarinet.

A music major, Fox graduated from college in May 1973. Though he was unwilling to participate in U.S. military actions in Vietnam, he auditioned for and earned a spot in the Marine Band, based in Washington, where he played to support his family.

After leaving the military, Fox quit the band to become a grocer, according to Christian Peacemaker Teams.

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