Canadian Taken
Hostage In Iraq

Canadian Press and Associated Press

OTTAWA -- A Canadian humanitarian aid worker who has "devoted his life to helping children" has been kidnapped in southern Iraq.
Fadi Ihsan Fadel was taken hostage while doing work for the New York City-based International Rescue Committee, a non-governmental organization.
"We are currently seeking further information on his status, whereabouts and well-being and hope he will be released soon," said Foreign Affairs spokesman Sameer Ahmed in Ottawa.
The kidnappings suggested a new tactic by insurgents to pressure the governments of U.S. allies in Iraq and posed dire implications for United Nations workers, journalists, religious groups, security personnel and other civilians doing business there.
Foreigners have been detained by gunmen for brief periods in the past, usually in robberies, and Iraqi citizens have been kidnapped and held for ransom by criminals. But this was the first time foreigners have been snatched for political reasons.
A statement from Mr. Fadel's brother released late Thursday said his family is in a state of shock. Mr. Fadel's parents live in Montreal.
"We are terrified and bewildered that this could have happened to someone who has devoted his life to helping children," Ghayas Fadel said.
The statement said Mr. Fadel was "a man of endless compassion for people in need, especially children. "That's why he felt compelled to go to Iraq three months ago to help innocent children who have been exposed to terrible things," he said.
According to the statement the family emigrated to Canada when Mr. Fadel, a 33-year-old Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was 19.
Efforts to free Mr. Fadel are being handled by the Canadian Embassy in Jordan, Mr. Ahmed said. "We have a variety of activities under way."
The family called for Mr. Fadel's quick and safe release.
"We pray that Fadi's captors will realize that this brave and gentle man has no other agenda than to help the children of Iraq."
Ghayas Fadel told the Montreal Gazette the first information the family received was that Fadi Fadel was being held somewhere for questioning.
"We didn't think it was a kidnapping. Then we saw him on CNN and that was shocking. We didn't know how to react."
Ghayas Fadel said his brother looked tired in TV footage.
"We were very happy to see him alive."
Mr. Fadel's family has been in constant contact with Fadi Fadel during his stay in Iraq, last speaking to him on Monday.
"He seemed happy," said Ghayas Fadel, 26. "He was enjoying the work he was doing. He said he sensed that he was in a secure area so we didn't see this coming."
Ghayas Fadel said his brother was looking forward to some vacation time in May when he planned to travel to Germany to visit some family.
Roueida Fadel, the kidnapped man's mother, said she got the news at about 8 a.m. and called her son and some neigbours as the family came to grips with the tragedy.
"We waited and we waited," she told Radio-Canada in an emotional interview. "We're hoping for the best."
The International Rescue Committee said Fadel was taken hostage by the local militia in southern Iraq.
The agency said that Mr. Fadel was abducted early Wednesday morning local time from the IRC residence in Najaf.
Fadel manages a UNICEF-funded program that provides humanitarian assistance for vulnerable children and youth in southern Iraq, the agency said in a statement on its website.
These activities have included the rehabilitation of a youth centre, the distribution of wheelchairs to injured children in Najaf and support to local schools, the IRC said.
"Mr. Fadel is a committed humanitarian aid worker who is in Iraq solely to assist conflict-affected Iraqi communities. On humanitarian grounds, we appeal to his captors to release him unharmed," the agency said.
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