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Quaker hostage killed in Iraq 

Tom Fox, 54, had family here

For Fayetteville Quaker House director Chuck Fager, the war is hitting close to home this year. Last week, the body of Fager's friend and fellow Quaker, Tom Fox, was found along the road to the Baghdad airport. Fox, who was in Iraq as part of a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation assisting Iraqis, had been bound and shot in the head. Three other Quakers--Canadians Harmeet Sooden, 32, and James Loney, 41, and Briton Norman Kember, 74--are still being held hostage.

Fager said he had been preparing for the likelihood of his friend's death since Fox and the three others were taken hostage last Nov. 26 by a group calling itself "Swords of Righteousness Brigades."

"He was like a friend and like a cousin," says Fager, who first got to know Fox in the 1980s when their families were both associated with the Langley Hill Friends Meeting in McLean, Va.

Saturday morning, Fager plans to host a memorial to honor Fox's life. It is fitting, he said, to memorialize Fox's sacrifice in Fayetteville, home of U.S. Army post Fort Bragg, on the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.

According to media reports, Fox's body showed signs of torture, a fact that may indicate his captors thought he was working for the U.S. government. Fox spent 20 years as a U.S. Marine Corps, playing in the Marine band, Fager said.

"I can think of plenty of reasons for them to be suspicious," Fager says. "The fact that he's American is enough reason in the current situation for them to distrust him. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw that video of the other three and not him was, 'Oh my God, they are picking him out because he's the American.'"

Fager said it is "hurtful and sad" to read the details of Fox's murder, "that apparently he was beaten and maybe even tortured before they killed him. That was something that was on my mind, also; that if they're gonna kill him, could they please God make it quick and brief, and this sounds like maybe they didn't even have that much mercy."

Fox's death also touched folks at the Durham Friends Meeting, where Fox had worshipped several times when he was in town to visit his daughter, Kassie, who lived in Durham.

In the fall of 2004, Durham Friends Meeting member Bill O'Connor agreed to take care of Charley, Tom Fox's cat.

Both O'Connor and Fager say it makes no sense that Fox, who opposed the U.S. occupation of Iraq, should be killed by people who likely shared his views.

"What Tom was doing was helping Iraqis who had had family members who disappeared or were thrown in prison try to locate them," O'Connor said. "They were documenting people who had been killed or injured or had their property destroyed, trying to help them out."

After the four were abducted, Fager set up a Web site (freethecaptivesnow.org) to encourage people to write letters and lobby for the release of the four hostages.

"We believe that the most help those outside Iraq can be to these prisoners is to make clear to the world, and especially their captors, that they were in Iraq not as spies, military contractors or even missionaries, but as unarmed advocates of peace, justice, and reconciliation," Fager wrote on the site a week after Fox was taken hostage."

In his own statement of conviction, Fox wrote in October 2004: "We reject violence to punish anyone who harms us. We ask for equal justice in the arrest and trial of anyone, soldier or civilian, who commits an act of violence, and we ask that there be no retaliation on their relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies."

Fager said he last saw Fox in August 2005 at a regional Quaker conference in Virginia, when Fox was between stints in Iraq.

"He spoke very plainly then about the dangers they faced there," Fager says. "He certainly knew the risks. But he was also very matter-of-fact about them, and this was pure Tom. I didn't try to dissuade him from going back--I knew thus would be futile. He had chosen his path carefully, and was following it to the end."

Fager is asking people to carry placards honoring Fox at Saturday's march. For more information, call Fager at (910) 323-3912.

  • Tom Fox, 54, had family here

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