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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 16:18 GMT
In quotes: Reaction to Kember release
Loved ones of the freed British hostage Norman Kember have joined politicians in speaking of their joy at the release of the 74-year-old peace activist who had been held in Iraq for nearly four months. Two Canadian colleagues captured with him were also freed.

KEMBER FAMILY

A statement from Mr Kember's family, released by the Foreign Office, said: "We are very pleased that Norman and his friends are safe.

"We are grateful for all the support we have had from so many people since Norman was taken hostage.

"We also thank everyone who has worked so hard for him to be set free."

IAN KEMBER, NORMAN'S BROTHER

"It's a wonderful thing, and it's obviously a great relief, but beyond that I haven't come to terms with it yet.

"This has been the news we have been waiting for for a long time."

JACK STRAW, FOREIGN SECRETARY

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Jack Straw made two trips to Iraq since Norman Kember's capture

"I'm delighted that now we have a happy ending to this terrible ordeal for Norman Kember, for his family, for the Canadian hostages and for their families as well.

"I spoke about half an hour ago to Mrs Kember. The Foreign Office have kept in very close touch with her and I've spoken to her from time to time and of course it goes without saying that she is absolutely delighted, elated with this news.

"But the family will need time and space to deal with what is happy news and I hope that the British and international media will respect their wishes here."

TONY BLAIR, PRIME MINISTER

A spokesman for Tony Blair said: "The prime minister is delighted by the news. He is particularly pleased for those released and their families and congratulates everyone involved in the rescue operation."

DOUG PRITCHARD, CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER TEAMS

Mr Kember was working in Iraq for the US and Canada-based peace group Christian Peacemaker Teams. The group's co-director Doug Pritchard said: "Our hearts are filled with joy this morning as we learn that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember, have been safely released in Baghdad.

"Christian Peacemaker Teams rejoices with their families and their friends at the expectation of their return to their loved ones and their communities.

"Together we have endured uncertainty, hope, fear, grief and now joy during the four months since they were abducted in Baghdad."

TIM NAFZIGER, CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER TEAMS

Tim Nafziger, a London-based member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, said the kidnappings had not deterred the group from continuing its work for peace.

He added: "Some of the grief and pain we have been through is something that is a daily thing for Iraqis.

"So many lives have been lost and they don't necessarily make the national news."

MASSOUD SHADJAREH, ISLAMIC HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

"Norman Kember has been a man who has stood for justice for the whole region.

"He is a man of peace. It was sad to have seen him ever being taken and become a victim of what he opposed.

"The joy we feel for him is mixed with sadness for his fellow hostages and all the others that are dying.

"Human beings are human beings.

"We have just passed three years of this and have seen so many innocent lives taken. Norman went there to stop this madness and this madness is still continuing."

IQBAL SACRANIE, MUSLIM COUNCIL OF BRITAIN

"We are all extremely delighted with this great news that has come in. This was very timely in terms of the crises that are really prevailing in Iraq.

"Day in, day out, we see more than 60 to 70 innocent people being killed. And then suddenly we hear that this innocent man who had been trying to do some good work in Iraq - bridge building, a peace activist who was against the war - taken up in this situation.

"So literally everyone was extremely concerned and worried but it's wonderful that he's released and safe and unharmed.

"It was rather extraordinary in terms of the broad alliance that was built in (to appeal for his release).

"The key message that was there, that really brought in great attraction towards its support was that here we had really an innocent person, someone who was trying to bring about better understanding between the communities in the very difficult time after the invasion that is taking place; the destruction that is taking place daily; and someone who was bold enough to go in and try and help the community who is suffering."

IHTISHAM HIBATULLAH, MUSLIM ASSOCIATION OF BRITAIN

"We are all joyful that our fellow British citizen has been released and out of thin air, the misery which he has been going through for four months - him and his colleagues - and our hearts goes out to this moment, this joyful moment."

BRUCE KENT, FORMER CND LEADER AND KEMBER FAMILY FRIEND

"I just think it's so wonderful. Our hopes were so down after the unfortunate American was murdered. That Norman and friends are free, I think is just so wonderful."

SUE CLAYDON, KEMBER FAMILY FRIEND

"Elation is the best I can do and it's not good enough. I will stress that there were lots and lots of people who have worked very hard to keep Norman and the others in the public eye and that is backed up by millions who have supported us with their prayers and thoughts".

REV ALAN BETTERIDGE, PRESIDENT OF BAPTIST PEACE FELLOWSHIP

"It's tremendously good and so unexpected after the killing of Tom Fox a couple of weeks ago when we really did fear that each one would be killed eventually.

"So even more tremendously exciting news and a great relief for us all, and I'm sure that after he's been cared for physically and so on, there'll be a great reunion with his family and the same for Harmeet and James for their families too.

"And when Norman is fit and strong again, he's going to have a great story to tell us."

CHRIS COLE, DIRECTOR OF FELLOWSHIP OF RECONCILIATION

"It seems to have come out of the blue. I'm slightly disturbed to hear the news that they were freed in a military operation. I know that the men very much would not have wanted anyone to lose their lives in this operation.

"But at the same of course we're absolutely delighted and it's an answer to our hopes and prayers that they'd be freed to come home with us."

MOAZZAM BEGG, FORMER GUANTANAMO BAY DETAINEE

Moazzam Begg, who publicly pleaded for the release of Mr Kember in December, said he was "ecstatic" at the news.

He said: "I am extremely pleased. I am very, very happy and hope to meet him soon after he gets back here.

"I am a little concerned about the military operation and hope that nobody was hurt during that.

"It is the best news to come out of Iraq in a long time.

"I just know the experience of being kept away from your home for such a long time. He needs time to recover and I hope that everybody gives him that."




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