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Family in limbo following kidnapping

Published: 6:18AM Thursday December 01, 2005 Source: RNZ/Reuters

The family of an Auckland student kidnapped in Iraq says it is in close contact with overseas embassies but still knows very little about what has happened to him.

Thirty-two-year old Canadian citizen Harmeet Singh Sooden, who is studying English at Auckland University, was taken captive with three others in Baghdad on Saturday.

The men, from Canada, the US and Britain, belong to a Christian group doing humanitarian work in Iraq.

Sooden's brother-in-law Mark Brewer says Sooden felt strongly about going to Iraq to help others. He says the most troubling thing is not knowing whether he is safe.

Brewer says there has been no ransom demand and he suspects the captors are sitting back gauging public reaction.

The kidnappers are a previously unknown group calling itself the "Swords of Truth" brigades and the hostages have been shown in a video aired by Al Jazeera television.

The four work for an aid group called Christian Peacemaker Teams but the video says the men are "spies working for the occupying forces".

Christian Peacemaker Teams have dismissed the charges that the men had been working as spies.

"We fear that whoever is holding them has made a mistake... (they) are four men who came to Iraq to work for peace and to explain their opposition to the occupation. They are not spies," said Doug Pritchard, Christian Peacemaker Teams' Canadian co-director.

"All of the Iraqi organisations and individuals who know us know that too, and we've encouraged them to speak out and they are doing that," he told CBC television.

Another Christian Peacemaker spokesperson, Robyn Buyers, says the organisation has been working with Scotland Yard and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in Baghdad to help secure the release of the men.

The Canadian government said on Tuesday it was doing all it can to secure the release of the two Canadian hostages. The other two men are 74-year-old Briton Norman Kember and American Tom Fox, 54.