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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 April 2006, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Mixed reaction to Kember remarks
Norman Kember
Kember said he found the kidnapping "unreal"

Friends of former Iraq hostage Norman Kember have praised him for giving an interview with the BBC, but others have said it was too early for him to speak.

During Mr Kember's interview with BBC Radio 4's Taking a Stand on Saturday, he admitted he considered taking his own life during his 117-day ordeal.

Fellow peace campaigner Bruce Kent said: "I rang him after hearing the interview to congratulate him."

Ex-hostage Terry Waite said Mr Kember was reliving his ordeal too soon.

Mr Kember, 74, of Pinner in north west London, was held in Baghdad for four months before his rescue on 23 March.

During his emotional interview, Mr Kember said he thought killing himself might have helped his two Canadian colleagues.

Vigil in London
Vigils were held for the hostages

Mr Kent said: "He seemed to be worried that he had broken down, but I thought he did very well.

"I thought he came over as a very modest self-effacing man who realised there were doubts about his visit and he was willing to face them."

Mr Kember wept as he recalled that British special forces asked for "Mr Kember" when they rescued him and his two Canadian colleagues in Baghdad.

And, admitting that he considered taking his own life, the Christian peacekeeper said: "When you are really depressed you think of suicide but there are not the means to do so."

American peace worker Tom Fox, 54, was killed weeks before the rescue. When asked about his fellow hostage, Mr Kember said he was a "remarkable man".

Mr Waite, who was held hostage in Beirut for five years, told BBC Radio Five Live the interview was too early after Mr Kember's rescue.

"I really don't think that it's particularly wise to debrief yourself - or unload yourself - in that way, in public," he said.

"It was quite clear to me when I listened to that interview - and I think it must have been quite clear to many, many listeners - that Norman Kember was still suffering as a result of the trauma through which he'd passed."

'Not frightened'

Mr Kember told the BBC's Feargal Keane how the kidnap of the four men - himself, Mr Fox and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32 - began.

"We got in our car, the four of us with a driver and a translator, and we were just driving out towards the main road when a car stopped in front of us."

They were British, they wanted to know if 'Mr Kember' was there, and I said, 'Yes'
Norman Kember on his SAS rescue

He said "out popped four men with guns, pushed out the driver and the translator and took over the car and told Jim to lie on the floor and pointed guns at us, and off we were driven.

"It was sort of an odd feeling, 'Is this actually happening to me?' It seemed unreal. I do not think I was frightened. It was just unreal, 'This is what a kidnap is all about'.

He said they were then "driven through a big iron gate and into a fairly secure house. We were taken in, sat down, and we were handcuffed fairly soon after that.


Mr Kember said they were kept in a room with a window that was closed, except in the morning when one of their captors would "open the window a bit to let some fresh air in.

"Then we would see a bit of sunlight, but of course the windows had bars on the outside.

His voice breaking with emotion, he spoke of the moment his rescuers arrived.

"We had this sort of futon thing on the floor, and we were lying there, and suddenly we heard noise outside and then somebody calling out and then the breaking of glass and then up the stairs came these SAS gents," he said.

Norman Kember, Pat Kember
Norman Kember was held for 117 days

"It's unbelievable because it was so sudden and first of all, because they were British, they wanted to know if 'Mr Kember' was there, and I said, 'Yes'.

Mr Kember said he "continues to thank" his rescuers.

"They were brave. I disagree with their profession, but it is ironic, isn't it? You go as a peace activist and you are rescued by the SAS, which is perhaps the most violent of all the British forces.

"Anyway, I am grateful to them. I met one of them by chance on the way out of Baghdad and he was quite happy to chat to me and I was happy to chat to him."


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