A video released yesterday on Islamist websites has ominous overtones for an American and a British hostage who are being held in Iraq along with two Canadians.
The video shows American Tom Fox, 54, and Briton Norman Kember, 74, dressed in orange jumpsuits. Terror groups in Iraq have taken to using the jumpsuits as a taunt to the United States, after prisoners wearing the suits were shown in notorious photos of abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.
Toronto activist James Loney and former Montrealer Harmeet Singh Sooden, who were abducted along with Fox and Kember, are apparently not in the video.
All four men were in Iraq as part of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, a group devoted to ending conflict through non-violence.
The video contains other warning signs not found in two earlier videos released by a shadowy outfit calling itself the Swords of the Righteous Brigade, who are holding the men.
The kidnappers' camera focuses on the chains binding Kember's hands, and both he and Fox are blindfolded.
Fox, a father of two from Virginia, pleads "for my release from captivity and also ... for a release from captivity of all the people of Iraq. We are all suffering from the same fate, and that is the occupation of the American troops and the British troops which have brought me to this condition and has brought the Iraqi people to the condition they are in."
Kember says he has been opposed to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's war, "since the very beginning." He asks Blair to do all he can "to work for my release and the release of the Iraqi people ..."
The Washington-based SITE Institute first discovered the video on a website of a leading insurgency group in Iraq. The video aired on Al-Jazeera television later yesterday.
Rita Katz, director of SITE, which tracks and translates militant activity on the Web, said last night it is significant that only the British and U.S hostages are shown.
"I think it's easier for them to threaten to kill the American and the Briton first," Katz said, noting that the Canadians may be treated more favourably because Canada opted out of the U.S.- and U.K.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.