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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Christian Activists Are Freed in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S.-led forces freed three Christian peace activists held hostage in Iraq on Thursday in an operation mounted two weeks after the kidnappers tortured and killed their American colleague.

Canadians Jim Loney, 41, and Harmeet Sooden, 32, and 74-year-old British pacifist Norman Kember from Christian Peacemaker Teams were snatched in Baghdad in November.

The tortured body of Tom Fox, an American, was found dumped in the capital two weeks ago.

A CPT spokesman in Canada said that the captors were not present when the rescue took place.

Military and embassy officials gave few details of the rescue operation, declining to say if it was in Iraq or whether any arrests had been made. There were media reports that the men were recovered in western Baghdad.

It appeared likely that British special forces would have been involved as they have been in previous kidnappings.

In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said only: "It was an operation led by the Multinational Force, which involved British forces. ... It follows weeks and weeks of very careful work by military coalition personal in Iraq and many civilians as well."

A British military spokesman in Baghdad, Wing Commander Tony Radcliffe, said there had been no casualties in the operation. U.S. and Iraqi military spokesmen declined to comment.

News of the rescue came amid further insurgent violence in Iraq. At least 15 people were killed, most of them policemen, when a suicide car bomber blew himself up outside the major crimes unit headquarters in Baghdad.

Another car exploded at a market in the southwest of the city, close to a Shiite mosque. Yarmouk Hospital officials said seven people were killed and 10 wounded. Police said the car bomb had targeted a police patrol driving through the market. At least one of the dead was a policeman, as were four of the wounded.

Kember's wife, Pat, said she was "delighted" by news of the hostages' release. "It's very good news, but I'm just waiting for more details. I can't say any more," she said.

Kember, Sooden and Loney were in "good shape" in the British Embassy compound in Baghdad, embassy spokeswoman Lisa Glover said.

Straw said Sooden and Loney had needed hospital treatment, but gave no details. Loney's brother Ed said the family had been in contact with the activist since his release.

The four were seized four months ago while driving in a part of western Baghdad known as a haven for Sunni Arab rebels on their way to meet Muslim clerics. Their group specializes in trying to use Christian principles to defuse conflicts.