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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 11:07 GMT
Wife 'thrilled' at Kember release
Pat and Norman Kember

The wife of Norman Kember has said she is "thrilled" that the Briton and two Canadian peace activists held hostage in Iraq have been freed.

Pat Kember said: "He was very, very pleased to be free, but he was very emotional in talking to me."

Mr Kember, 74, of north-west London, James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, were three of four men seized in Baghdad in November.

The body of their US colleague Tom Fox, 54, was found in Baghdad on 9 March.

The three men were rescued on Thursday morning, following a weeks-long operation led by British troops and involving US and Canadian special forces.

The rescue followed information gained from two detainees just three hours before the hostages were freed.

The real good news here is that thankfully none of the families of the servicemen who rescued these people are receiving bad news
Ryan, Rome, Italy

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said the troops involved in the rescue had shown "extraordinary courage, dedication and commitment".

Pat Kember told Radio Live in New Zealand: "I think he must have been very worried about me and the family and he was pleased to be able to talk to me.

"I haven't been on the phone with him very long at all; I wanted to ask about the other two and I haven't done so yet. He's due to phone me again."

The three men spent their first night of freedom at the British embassy in the relative safety of Baghdad's green zone.

'Bit silly'

On Thursday they underwent medical checks, talked by phone to family and friends and were reunited with other members of the peace group with whom they were working.

After nearly four months in captivity, Mrs Kember had become pessimistic about her husband's fate but drew strength from the support of religious groups in the UK, she said.

"The support I have had from everybody has been so wonderful. In England every church and denomination has been having vigils of prayer and I cannot fault them."

She said she had never expected her husband to be kidnapped when he told her he was going to Iraq.

I thought he might be blown up by a bomb, I did not really expect him to be taken hostage
Pat Kember

"I thought when he wanted to go to Iraq he was a bit silly but on the other hand I knew he felt he must do something and he is getting old," she said.

"If he doesn't do something specific it would be too late.

"But I thought he might be blown up by a bomb, I did not really expect him to be taken hostage."

Travel advice

The men were working for the US and Canada-based peace group Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).

Hold one big press conference, get rid of the questions, and then retreat for a while and get into a situation whereby you can come to terms with your family and the world as it has changed
Former Beirut hostage Terry Waite

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged people planning to undertake humanitarian work in Iraq to think again, saying there was a real risk of being kidnapped or killed.

Earlier, Mr Kember had said in a statement that it was "great to be free" but he was looking forward to getting back to the UK.

The retired professor is expected back in the next two days, according to British embassy officials, and is said to be in a "reasonable condition".

On Friday, former Beirut hostage Terry Waite told BBC News Mr Kember would find it "bewildering" when he had to "face the wider world".

He advised Mr Kember to "hold one big press conference, get rid of the questions, and then retreat for a while and get into a situation whereby you can come to terms with your family and the world as it has changed".

Vigil in London
Vigils were held for the hostages

Officials have revealed few details of the operation, but it is known that none of the captors was present, no shots were fired and no-one was injured.

A US Army spokesman said the three men had been found tied up in a house in western Baghdad, after a tip-off.

The four men were abducted on 26 November by a previously unknown group calling itself the Swords of Truth Brigade.

The group had issued threats to kill the men if the US and Iraqi authorities did not meet their demand of releasing all Iraqi prisoners.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge, in Baghdad, said many aspects of the 117-day kidnapping were unclear.

"What kind of group were the kidnappers for example, how did they treat their captives and why did they vanish before the rescue leaving the hostages behind?

"The military here believe they are now on the trail of a robust kidnapping cell and they'll clearly be hoping for more breakthroughs."

Mr Fox, 54, was found shot dead in the Mansour district of the Iraqi capital.

Between 10 and 40 Iraqis are kidnapped every day - often children snatched on their way to school and held for a ransom of between 3,000 and 30,000.

Reaction to the news from Norman Kember's wife

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