An American aid worker taken hostage with three other peace activists was apparently tortured before he was shot in the head and chest and his body dumped near a railroad line in Baghdad, Iraqi police said Saturday.
Tom Fox, a 54-year-old member of Christian Peacemaker Teams from Clear Brook, Va., was the fifth American hostage killed in Iraq. There was no immediate word on his fellow captives, a Briton and two Canadians.
The U.S. command in Baghdad confirmed that Fox’s body was picked up by American forces on Thursday evening, although it provided no information on the condition.
Interior Ministry Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said Fox was found with his hands tied and gunshot wounds to his head and chest. There were cuts on his body and bruises on his head, indicating torture, he said. The corpse was dressed in Iraqi-made clothing.
Fox’s body was found near a railway line in Dawoudi, a mixed Sunni-Shiite area that has been largely shielded from violence. Shocked local residents on Saturday condemned Fox’s abduction and killing.
“These acts are terrorist ones and will hinder the political process and distort the reputation of Iraq,” said Dhamir al-Samaraie, who had come to see where Fox was found.
The previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigades claimed responsibility for kidnapping the four Christian Peacemaker Teams members, who disappeared Nov. 26.
Three of them — Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32; and Briton Norman Kember, 74 — were seen in a video dated Feb. 28 that was broadcast Tuesday on Al-Jazeera television. Fox did not appear in the brief, silent videotape.
Grief in the West Bank
In the West Bank, many Palestinians expressed sorrow over the killing of Fox, who had traveled there to protest for their cause before he was taken hostage in Iraq.
“I’m calling for the kidnappers to release the other hostages,” said Hisham Sharabati, a human rights activist who met Fox. “This killing harmed the Palestinian and Iraqi causes because the hostages were working for peace.”
At least 250 foreigners have been kidnapped in the nearly three years since U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq, and at least 40 have been killed.
“We mourn the loss of Tom Fox, who combined a lightness of spirit, a firm opposition to all oppression, and the recognition of God in everyone,” Doug Pritchard and Carol Rose, co-directors of Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams, said in a statement.
Americans killed were Ronald Schulz, 40, an industrial electrician from Anchorage, Alaska; Jack Hensley, 48, a civil engineer from Marietta, Ga.; Eugene “Jack” Armstrong, 52, formerly of Hillsdale, Mich.; and Nicholas Berg, 26, a businessman from West Chester, Pa.
Female activist still missing
Still missing is Jill Carroll, a freelance writer for The Christian Science Monitor who was kidnapped Jan. 7 in Baghdad. She has appeared in three videotapes delivered by her kidnappers to Arab satellite television stations.
Carroll’s kidnappers initially threatened to kill her unless all female detainees in Iraq are released. They later amended their demands, which have not been made public. The Monitor launched a campaign on Iraqi television stations Wednesday asking Iraqis to “please help with the release of journalist Jill Carroll.”
An Iraqi journalist, meanwhile, was gunned down on his way to work Saturday, becoming at least the fifth media figure killed since an outbreak of sectarian violence after the bombing late last month of a Shiite shrine north of Baghdad.
Amjad Hameed, a journalist for Iraqiya television, was attacked by gunmen who shot him in the head and chest while he was being driven to his job. His driver, Anwar Turki, died later in the hospital.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Hameed, who was married and the father of three, was the 11th Iraqiya journalist killed since the channel opened shortly after Saddam Hussein was ousted in the U.S.-led invasion nearly three years ago.
Iraqiya is run by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government and seen by minority Sunni Muslims as biased against them.
Other civilain casualties
Two days ago, Munsuf Abdallah al-Khaldi, 35, an anchorman for the Sunni-affiliated Baghdad TV, was shot dead while driving from Baghdad to Mosul, in the north, to interview poets. Baghdad TV is owned by the Iraqi Islamic Party, the biggest Sunni political group.
On Feb. 22, the day bombers destroyed the golden dome atop the Askariya Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad, Al-Arabiya journalist Atwar Bahjat, a Sunni, and two colleagues from a local media company went missing. Their bullet-riddled bodies were found a day later near Samarra.
In addition to Hameed and his driver, at least four other people were killed in drive-by shootings in Baghdad and north of the capital on Saturday, police said.
They included a human rights activist and his bodyguard, a lieutenant colonel in the Interior Ministry commando force, and a retired government employee gunned down near a Sunni mosque in south Baghdad.