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Peace Group Grateful for Rescue of Iraq Hostages

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

And here is British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in London, announcing some good news today.

Mr. JACK STRAW (British Foreign Secretary): I'm very pleased to be able to say that the three hostages, Norman Kember, British hostage, two Canadian hostages have been released as a result of a multinational force operation which took place earlier today. British forces were involved in this operation. It follows weeks and weeks of very careful work by our military and coalition personnel in Iraq, and many civilians, as well.

MONTAGNE: Again, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The three foreign aid workers, along with American Tom Fox, had been taken hostage in November. The body of Tom Fox was found earlier this month. The British foreign secretary described his countrymen as being in reasonable condition. The two Canadians required hospital treatment. The kidnapped men had been shown several times in videos released by their captors. The most recent is a silent recording dated February 28th. Tom Fox did not appear in that video.

We go now to Anita David. She's a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, the group which the freed hostages belong to, and hello.

Ms. ANITA DAVID (Christian Peacemaker Team): Hello.

MONTAGNE: Obviously, you must be very elated at this news.

Ms. DAVID: You are speaking to the happiest woman on seven continents.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DAVID: I'm more than elated. I am grateful, and this is answered prayers.

MONTAGNE: Of your compatriots, these three men, what do you know about their condition?

Ms. DAVID: They're okay, is what we know, that is what we were told. No one was wounded or hurt in the rescue operation, as far as been reported to us, and they're right now in a hospital.

MONTAGNE: Do you know anything about this rescue operation? I mean, were they simply freed or were they somehow taken by force?

Ms. DAVID: I can tell you what was reported to us: only that the British found one member of the kidnapping team and he led them to where our folks were being held, the other kidnappers were not there, and the British rescued our three men.

MONTAGNE: It has been four months since the kidnappings, and it's been weeks since the death of Tom Fox, let me ask you, Anita David, why are you still in Iraq? It's obviously quite dangerous. What do you hope to achieve?

Ms. DAVID: First of all, I must say, please don't try to make it sound so heroic, it's not. It's really ordinary grind work. We work simply for the human rights of people who have been taken. We don't ask that they be released or anything like that. It's just simple, let us know where they are, let their family members see them, and we try to set up a system by which Iraqis can do that on their own. We have not succeeded yet in doing so.

We're working with human rights--Iraqi human rights groups here, trying to form coalitions so that they can work together. We try to cooperate with other human rights groups and answer their needs if we can. We've worked with, we've developed Muslim peacemaking groups at their request, and there are two. One is in Najaf and the other is in Karbala. We try to help with trainings in human rights, reconciliation, and transformation.

MONTAGNE: Right.

Ms. DAVID: This population needs all of that.

MONTAGNE: Anita David, thank you very much talking with us. And, you know, it's very happy for this good result for at least three of your members.

Ms. DAVID: Thank you very much and our hearts go out to the family members of Tom, and I can't say any more right now. I'm sorry.

(Soundbite of crying)

MONTAGNE: Anita David is a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Baghdad, where three of the group's aid workers were freed today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.