Lack of evidence for Iraq negotiator abduction claim - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
December 17, 2005

Lack of evidence for Iraq negotiator abduction claim

-17/12/05

In spite of further investigation, no further evidence has so far been produced to back up the suggestion, made in the Toronto Star yesterday, that a hostage negotiator has been kidnapped in Iraq.

In a news story which has spread across the web, the Star talked of the alleged disappearance of a local person supposed to be involved in talks to release Canadian Jim Loney, who was abducted outside a Baghdad mosque on 26 November 2005, along with three other Christian Peacemaker Team activists.

The report, bylined both to Toronto-based reporter Michelle Shephard and elsewhere to Mitch Potter of the paper's Middle East bureau, said that the negotiator had recently met face-to-face with members of the group which had kidnapped the activists, known as the Swords of Truth Brigades.

It suggested that the person concern ìhad worked in the past on other high-profile kidnapping [cases]î and had now not been seen since 8 December.

The Star report went on to say that ìa sourceî believed the negotiator had been kidnapped.

But contacts of the UK religious think-tank and news service Ekklesia, which works in partnership with Christian Peacemaker Teams, have said that there is in fact no such hostage negotiator.

Attempts to seek some degree of corroboration of the Toronto Starís allegations have so far met with no response, though CTV.ca Canada says it is ëcheckingí its syndicated version.

Others who have run the piece include Winnipeg Free Press and CBC News. Along with Ekklesia, SooToday.Comís reporter David Helwig has queried it - James Loney is from Sault Ste. Marie.

There is no reliable on-the-ground or diplomatic evidence that anyone has been able to establish direct contact with the people who have kidnapped the CPT peace workers.

But it is believed that they are receiving messages via Arab satellite channels such as al-Jazeera.

Security experts say that ìthe rumour mills around the hostage situation are frequently confusedî, and those working for the release of both international and Iraqi hostages add that such rumours are unhelpful to their cause.

Many local people are still abducted in Iraq, often by criminal gangs rather than directly by militants.

Supporters of the four Christian Peacemaker Team abductees, along with a German and a French hostage, are maintaining vigils and pleas for mercy and release.

The massive regional and global support of Muslim political and religious for the freeing of the captives is one main source of hope.

CPT has worked in Iraq for two years. It was the first to expose Abu Ghraib and other detainees abuse scandals, and has opposed invasion and occupation.

It is an ecumenical programme backed by the Historic Peace Churches (Mennonite, Quaker, Church of the Brethren) and seeks to build bridges for peace with justice alongside local groups.

CPT has also supported the development of a Muslim Peacekeeper Team.

Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush has announced that he will make a televised address about Iraq on Sunday at 21.00 EST from the Oval Office.

[A full index of Ekklesia coverage of the Iraq hostage situation and CPT can be found at the foot of this news story: Fears 'unfounded' over Iraq hostage negotiator, 16/12/05. Further updates on Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrowís personal weblog]

Lack of evidence for Iraq negotiator abduction claim

-17/12/05

In spite of further investigation, no further evidence has so far been produced to back up the suggestion, made in the Toronto Star yesterday, that a hostage negotiator has been kidnapped in Iraq.

In a news story which has spread across the web, the Star talked of the alleged disappearance of a local person supposed to be involved in talks to release Canadian Jim Loney, who was abducted outside a Baghdad mosque on 26 November 2005, along with three other Christian Peacemaker Team activists.

The report, bylined both to Toronto-based reporter Michelle Shephard and elsewhere to Mitch Potter of the paper's Middle East bureau, said that the negotiator had recently met face-to-face with members of the group which had kidnapped the activists, known as the Swords of Truth Brigades.

It suggested that the person concern 'had worked in the past on other high-profile kidnapping [cases]' and had now not been seen since 8 December.

The Star report went on to say that 'a source' believed the negotiator had been kidnapped.

But contacts of the UK religious think-tank and news service Ekklesia, which works in partnership with Christian Peacemaker Teams, have said that there is in fact no such hostage negotiator.

Attempts to seek some degree of corroboration of the Toronto Star's allegations have so far met with no response, though CTV.ca Canada says it is ëchecking' its syndicated version.

Others who have run the piece include Winnipeg Free Press and CBC News. Along with Ekklesia, SooToday.Com's reporter David Helwig has queried it - James Loney is from Sault Ste. Marie.

There is no reliable on-the-ground or diplomatic evidence that anyone has been able to establish direct contact with the people who have kidnapped the CPT peace workers.

But it is believed that they are receiving messages via Arab satellite channels such as al-Jazeera.

Security experts say that 'the rumour mills around the hostage situation are frequently confused', and those working for the release of both international and Iraqi hostages add that such rumours are unhelpful to their cause.

Many local people are still abducted in Iraq, often by criminal gangs rather than directly by militants.

Supporters of the four Christian Peacemaker Team abductees, along with a German and a French hostage, are maintaining vigils and pleas for mercy and release.

The massive regional and global support of Muslim political and religious for the freeing of the captives is one main source of hope.

CPT has worked in Iraq for two years. It was the first to expose Abu Ghraib and other detainees abuse scandals, and has opposed invasion and occupation.

It is an ecumenical programme backed by the Historic Peace Churches (Mennonite, Quaker, Church of the Brethren) and seeks to build bridges for peace with justice alongside local groups.

CPT has also supported the development of a Muslim Peacekeeper Team.

Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush has announced that he will make a televised address about Iraq on Sunday at 21.00 EST from the Oval Office.

[A full index of Ekklesia coverage of the Iraq hostage situation and CPT can be found at the foot of this news story: Fears 'unfounded' over Iraq hostage negotiator, 16/12/05. Further updates on Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow's personal weblog]

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