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American Hostage Found Dead in Iraq

March 11, 2006|Borzou Daragahi | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Tom Fox, an American kidnapped last year with three other Christian activists, was found dead Friday morning in Iraq.

The FBI identified the body of Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va. "Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family," State Department spokesman Noel Clay said in Washington.

Fox and the others were members of Christian Peacemaker Teams. Colleagues now in Baghdad to work for their release said they were stunned by Fox's death. One broke down in sobs as she began to speak.

Another described him as a humanitarian with a dry wit.

"He was a quiet, gentle man with an understated sense of humor," said Beth Pyles, who had accompanied Fox, a Quaker, last fall during an effort to help Palestinians stuck in Iraq get to Syria. "He was a wise and compassionate person," she said.

The group posted a statement on its website saying in part: "The death of our beloved colleague and friend pierces us with pain.... We renew our plea for the safe release" of Harmeet Singh Sooden, James Loney and Norman Kember.

Sooden and Loney are Canadians; Kember is British. The three appeared Tuesday in a videotape aired on Al Jazeera television. Fox did not.

The video was dated Feb. 28, a month after Al Jazeera telecast similar footage showing all four. The January video had been accompanied by a statement giving U.S.-led forces what the captors called one last chance to free all Iraqi prisoners.

A previously unknown group, Swords of Righteousness Brigades, had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

There was no word Friday on U.S. journalist Jill Carroll, who was abducted two months ago.

The Christian Peacemaker Teams website says Fox is the father of two children. He played the bass clarinet and the recorder, loved to cook and had worked as a grocer. Fox devoted much of his time to working with children, the website says.

Christian Peacemaker Teams has been in Iraq since late 2002. Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, it has been investigating allegations of abuse against Iraqi detainees. In a statement Tuesday, it said 14,600 Iraqis were "detained illegally by the multinational forces."

Its website Friday called for continued work to "hasten the day when both those who are wrongly detained and those who bear arms will return safely to their homes."

"In such a peace," it said, "we will find solace for our grief."

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