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Families wait to hear hostages' fate

Published: 5:33PM Saturday December 10, 2005 Source: RNZ/One News

The families of four hostages in Iraq, including Auckland student Harmeet Singh, are waiting for news as a second deadline to kill them approaches.

The men were kidnapped in Baghdad a fortnight ago and a group calling itself Swords of Truth has threatened to kill them unless all prisoners in Iraq are freed by Saturday night.

A number of senior Sunni clerics in Iraq have called for the release of four hostages, including Auckland student Harmeet Sooden.

Ahmed Hassan Taha told worshippers at Friday prayers in a predominantly Sunni district of Baghdad that the men are the first who condemned the war on Iraq. And Sheikh Ahmed al-Samaraie asked that those who have an influence make sure the hostages are released.

Humanitarian group Christian Peacemaker Teams says it still has no word on the fate of the four men who work for them as volunteers.

Spokesperson William Payne says it has been a difficult two weeks and it will be a burden for the organisation until their friends are released.

In Auckland Harmeet Sooden's family are keeping an anxious vigil as they wait to hear his fate.

His brother-in-law Mark Brewer told One News they are living in limbo and it is difficult for the family just sitting waiting.

"We're kept busy with activity, but it's not of course activity that we want to be doing...so our life's on hold a wee bit," says Brewer.

He says the family are planning to go to the Middle East next week.