Family and Friends of Hostages Wait as Deadline Passes

Family and friends of Christian peace activists held hostage in Iraq waited with mounting concern Saturday as a deadline to kill them passed without word from the kidnappers.

The previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigade seized the activists from Christian Peacemaker Teams — two Canadians, an American and a Briton — two weeks ago, threatening to kill them unless U.S. and Iraqi authorities released all prisoners. The group had set Thursday as a deadline but extended until Saturday.

Iraq's Interior Ministry said it had no information about the hostages, and there was no sign that emissaries sent from Canada and Britain had managed to establish contact with the kidnappers.

"We thought we'd hear something in the early hours of the morning today or at least by now," said Ed Loney, younger brother of Canadian hostage James Loney, 41. "We're definitely hungry to hear something, anything at this point."

The other three are Canadian Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32; Norman Kember, 74, of London and Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va.

Katherine Fox, daughter of Tom Fox, pleaded for her father's release.

"Both my father and I believe that the Iraqi people have legitimate concerns regarding the U.S. occupancy and presence in Iraq," she said in a video broadcast Saturday on CNN. "We believe that these grievances, however, will not be resolved by taking my father's life."

Christian Peacemaker Teams has been working in Iraq since October 2002, investigating allegations of abuse against Iraqi detainees and promoting peace.

Katherine Fox said the extension of the deadline "verifies my father's belief that the Iraqi people are honorable and just" and "indicates a willingness to discuss the safe release of my father."

Iraqi officials say a revival of kidnappings of Westerners may be an attempt to undermine Thursday's elections to choose a parliament for the next four years.

There also has been no further word on the fate of Ronald Allen Schulz, after an Internet statement in the name of the Islamic Army in Iraq on Thursday claimed his abductors had killed him. Family and friends have said they believe Schulz, 40, a native of Jamestown, N.D., is still alive.

A French aid worker and a German citizen also are being held by kidnappers.

Ed Loney said he wanted the kidnappers to know their goals were similar to those of their captives.

"I want them to realize that they really do have people that are actually on their side," Ed Loney said. "The four CPT workers have been working hard for the release of detainees in Iraq and that they want to continue that work."

On Friday, Mark Brewer, the New Zealand brother-in-law of Sooden, said the family was hopeful the hostages would be released unharmed.

"There's been no indication these guys are being harmed or damaged in any way, and there's been a lot of support for them from many channels," he said on New Zealand's National Radio. "I think if ever there were hostages to be released, these are the guys."