Anti-war campaigner flies to Iraq to plead for Christian peacemakers
A British anti-war campaigner has left for Iraq to appeal directly for the release of hostage Norman Kember, who was kidnapped on Saturday.
Iraq war opponent Mr Kember, 74, was seized in Baghdad with two Canadians and an American.
The anti-war movement, representing amongst others the Muslim Association of Britain, Stop the War and CND, said however that the mission was "far from safe or guaranteed".
Mr Altikriti, who is of Iraqi origin, told the BBC News website he had agreed the trip with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) - an Ekklesia partner - with which Mr Kember had been working in Iraq.
He said he was going in a personal capacity, but that he had told the UK Foreign Office about the mission.
"Our main concern, and theirs, was that we did not want to jeopardise any moves that people were already making to secure Mr Kember's release," said Mr Altikriti.
He said he would make contact with people in Iraqi society, non-governmental organisations and political parties that may have "some kind of leverage" with the kidnappers.
He would also be working with local media to get the message across that Mr Kember is a "friend of the Iraqis," he said.
Yesterday, Arabic news service Al-Jazeera aired video footage from a previously unknown militant group showing the four kidnapped peace activists, alongside a statement from the group calling them spies.
But since the video was shown Palestinian Muslims have pointed out that the hostages were opposed to the invasion of Iraq and that Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have supported and helped them in Israel/ Palestine.
CPT was also the first organisation to highlight the abuse of Iraqi detainees by US soldiers, four months before the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison broke.
A statement from the British anti-war movement said Mr Kember was a well known member of the anti-war effort and took part in the dozen or so demonstrations held in protest against the war and occupation of Iraq.
"The movement acknowledges that this is far from a safe or guaranteed mission, but we hope that Mr Altikriti's mission will have a successful conclusion," it added.
The groups said they had been following events since the abduction with growing concern.
"What was hoped to be an incident ending in a quick release of the hostages is gradually developing into one that could be with dire consequences."
The Muslim Council of Britain has also urged Mr Kember's captors to release the Briton and his fellow hostages unharmed.
Secretary General Sir Iqbal Sacranie said: "Norman Kember is a man who cares deeply for the people of Iraq, and his kidnap and continued detention is completely unjustifiable.
"Our faith of Islam holds in great esteem the peaceful bridge-building work that Mr Kember was involved in."