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Hostage slaying boosts fears for Sooden12 March 2006
By EMMA PAGE and
A friend of Iraqi hostage Harmeet Sooden says the
slaying of one of his fellow captives increases her fears for
"I don't feel good about it. It's not a
good sign. I want to stay hopeful."
Australian Donna Mulhearn is a friend of
Sooden - an Auckland student - and American Tom Fox, whose
body was found in Baghdad on Friday morning.
The United States confirmed yesterday
that the body of the 54-year-old Virginian had been found.
He, Sooden and two other Christian
Peacemaker Team workers, Briton Norman Kember and Canadian Jim
Loney, were kidnapped in Western Baghdad in November by a
group calling itself Swords of Truth.
Sooden's brother-in-law Mark Brewer
sounded strained as he recounted the family's tense day
yesterday waiting for confirmation of Fox's murder, details of
which have not been made public.
After receiving an early morning alert
from Foreign Affairs officials, they waited until
mid-afternoon for confirmation.
"We're thinking of the Foxes and what
they are going through," Brewer said.
"Our hearts and prayers are with them.
We're hoping they can get through this and be strong."
The development has heightened their
anxiety over Sooden's fate, despite seeing him alive in a
video broadcast on Al-Jazeera television last week.
"All sorts of things go through your
mind. At this stage we're just being together and trying to be
busy. We hope he's being strong and certainly thinking of us
and we're thinking of him."
The family was keeping in touch with New
Zealand and Canadian government officials, and planned to stay
in New Zealand until there had been some resolution to the
Efforts to secure the release of the
remaining hostages were being led by the Canadian government.
Asked if efforts would be escalated
following the killing, a Foreign Affairs spokesman said, "It's
already a very serious situation. There are already very
strenuous efforts being made to secure their release."
He refused to say if contact had been
established with the hostage takers.
Acting Prime Minister Dr Michael Cullen
said he was deeply saddened by the killing.
He said Sooden's group had been in Iraq
for the sole purpose of helping the Iraqi people. "To see the
peaceful mission meet this tragic end is beyond
Mulhearn said she was devastated by news
of Fox's death.
"I never thought it would come to this. I
expected all four of those men to survive and carry on.
"Tom's much loved in Iraq. He was a man
with a big heart who put everything into his work. He really
reached out to the Iraqi people like they were his brothers
"My Iraqi friends adored him. He loved
and cared for them and they loved and cared for him back."
Mulhearn would often bump into Fox in
Iraq's Karrada St, where his peacemaking team base was just
down the road from her charity for orphans and streetkids.
Both went to St Raphael's Catholic Church.
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