Monday, March 27, 2006

Freed hostage arrives in Canada
Peace activist James Loney has arrived back in his native Canada after being held hostage by militants in Iraq for almost four months.

He arrived at Pearson airport in Toronto on a commercial flight from Frankfurt, Germany, where he was treated after his release.

He told reporters it felt like being freed from a "black hole".

A second Canadian activist freed with him, Harmeet Singh Sooden, is flying to New Zealand where he now lives.

For 118 days I disappeared into a black hole and somehow by God's grace, I was spit out again
James Loney

The two Canadians were released along with Briton Norman Kember while a fourth hostage captured at the same time in Baghdad, US citizen Tom Fox, was found shot dead earlier this month.

"During my captivity I sometimes entertained myself by imagining this day," Mr Loney told reporters at the airport.

"For 118 days I disappeared into a black hole and somehow by God's grace, I was spit out again."

The former hostage went on to express his thanks to "the British soldiers who risked their lives to rescue us, to the government of Canada who sent a team to Baghdad to help secure our release" and to those who prayed for the captives.

"It's great to be alive," he added.

Bloodless operation

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), the group the men were campaigning for, has said all three are still committed to working for peace in Iraq.

"I don't know if it will be here, or if it will be in another country but they are still very concerned," the CPT's Peggy Gish said.

The hostages were freed from a house west of Baghdad by multinational forces in a bloodless operation.

No kidnappers were found in the swoop which reportedly followed a tip-off by one of the group who had been captured earlier.

Their rescue followed a weeks-long operation by British troops and US and Canadian special forces.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Canadian special forces were in Iraq only temporarily to carry out the rescue.

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