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Toronto Star silent about disputed Iraq hostage claim

This morning's online edition of the Toronto Star is curiously silent about its disputed claim yesterday that a hostage negotiator had been abducted in Iraq after making contact with the kidnappers of Sault Ste.
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This morning's online edition of the Toronto Star is curiously silent about its disputed claim yesterday that a hostage negotiator had been abducted in Iraq after making contact with the kidnappers of Sault Ste. Marie's Jim Loney and three fellow members of Christian Peacemaker Teams.

The story was dismissed yesterday by the British theological think tank Ekklesia, which operates a news syndication service distributed on hundreds of church web sites.

Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow, a journalist who has previously served as assistant general secretary of the interfaith group Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, tells SooToday.com this morning that he has been trying without success to get additional information from the Toronto Star about its claim.

The Star story, attributed to a single anonymous source, didn't name the negotiator and provided few other details about the alleged new abduction.

The Star did disclose, however, that it believed the negotiator was an Iraqi who "had worked in the past on other high-profile kidnappings."

Oddly, the Star's online edition provided conflicting information about the authorship of yesterday's article, whose claims were widely repeated yesterday on national television and Internet news sources.

The byline on the article gave sole credit to Toronto-based reporter Michelle Shephard.

But another page on the paper's website included the piece in a listing of recent articles by Mitch Potter of the Star's Middle East bureau.

Liberal MP Dan McTeague, parliamentary secretary responsible for Canadians abroad, told the paper that he'd heard nothing about the alleged kidnapping of the Iraqi negotiator.

Ekklesia yesterday announced that it had received information refuting the Star report.

"A source close to Ekklesia, which works in partnership with Christian Peacemaker Teams, has confirmed that there is in fact no such hostage negotiator," the group said.

"Other negotiators had indicated that no one had been able to make direct contact with the Swords of Truth Brigades through direct channels."

"Security experts say that Baghdad remains a rumour-mill with much speculation and little hard information."

To read Ekklesia's latest take on the situation, please click here.

President Bush, meanwhile, announced last night that he will make a televised address about Iraq on Sunday at 9 p.m. (Eastern Time) from the Oval Office.


David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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