PRAGUE, March 11, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Tom Fox, an American Christian activist who was taken hostage in Iraq last November, has been found dead.
His body had been dumped beside a railway line in western Baghdad on March 9. Iraqi police said his hands had been tied and that he had gun shots to his head and chest. There were also cuts on his body and bruises on his head.
There is no immediate word on the whereabouts of Fox's fellow hostages: Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32; and Briton Norman Kember, 74. They were last seen in a video dated February 28 that was broadcast on March 7 on the Arabic television service Al-Jazeera. Fox did not appear in the brief footage.
The four worked for Christian Peacemaker Teams, one of the few aid groups still operating in Iraq.
The previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigades claimed responsibility for kidnapping the four workers on November 26. They are reportedly threatening to kill them unless all Iraqi prisoners are released from U.S. and Iraqi prisons.
A 'Heinous Act'
Speaking from Chicago, a former colleague, Sara Reschly, praised Fox, saying "Tom was a very gracious man, very quiet and deeply committed to working for peace, especially in Iraq."
The father of two children from the U.S. state of Virginia, Fox, 54, first traveled to Iraq in September 2004 to work with Iraqi human rights groups while preaching against the war.
Kryss Chupp, a Christian Peacemaker coordinator, said: "I feel like we stand in a different way today, as an organization and as friends of Tom, with those Iraqi families who have suffered this kind of loss on a daily basis for three years, and before."
Fox worked with families of jailed Iraqis, serving as a link between them and their families. He also escorted shipments of medicine to clinics and hospitals and worked to form an Islamic Peacemaker Team.
Denouncing The Killing
Ordinary Iraqis denounced the killing and said acts like this tarnish the image of the country. Ali Khazel, a resident of Baghdad, said on March 11 that "no person should be killed in Iraq" and that the killing of "people who are doing humanitarian works, who serve the people" damaged the country's reputation.
Another Baghdad resident, Abu Hasaneen, called Fox's killing a "heinous act" and that, "as Iraqi people, we totally reject all the justification given for the killing of those people who are here for purely humanitarian reasons."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading Muslim group in the United States, offered its condolences to the Fox family and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages in Iraq.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said today he was "saddened" at the news of Fox's death.
Straw, who was talking to reporters on the sidelines of a European Union meeting in the Austrian city of Salzburg, said the killing was bound to "raise anxieties" about the fate of the other three Christian Peacemaker activists -- including one Briton -- who were kidnapped with Fox.
More than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Fox is the fifty-fifth foreign hostage to be executed. Forty one were killed in 2004 and 13 in 2005.