Sunday, March 26, 2006

Next round of CPT hostages: You want ‘em, you got ‘em
Rescued hostage rations his thanks

LONDON -- Freed peace activist Norman Kember gave qualified thanks yesterday to the soldiers who rescued him and two colleagues after 119 days of captivity in Iraq.

"I do not believe that a lasting peace is achieved by armed force," Mr. Kember said, "but I pay tribute to their courage and thank those who played a part in my rescue."

The brief statement by the retired physics professor appeared to be an attempt to quell the furor surrounding his failure -- and that of others in the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) organization -- to thank the soldiers who risked their lives in the three-month rescue effort…

Gen. Mike Jackson, chief of the British general staff, had expressed dismay at Mr. Kember's apparent refusal to say "thank you," saying he was "saddened that there does not seem to have been a note of gratitude for the soldiers who risked their lives to save those lives."

The three freed hostages refused to take part in a critical debriefing session with intelligence officers.

"It is the ordinary people of Iraq that you should be talking to -- the people who have suffered so much over many years and still await the stable and just society that they deserve," Mr. Kember said yesterday.

"While in Baghdad we had opportunity to thank the British Embassy staff who worked so diligently for our release. I now thank the staff in Britain who also dedicated so much time to the same end."

The full gamut of Britain's intelligence services was involved in the hunt for the hostages, in an operation that cost millions of dollars. Agents from MI6, MI5, the Joint Communications Headquarters at Cheltenham and soldiers from the Special Air Service and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment all took part…

Jan Benvie, 51, an Edinburgh teacher who is due to go to Iraq with CPT this summer, said: "We make clear that if we are kidnapped we do not want there to be force or any form of violence used to release us."

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