WASHINGTON -- An American who was among four Christian activists kidnapped last year in Iraq has been killed, a State Department spokesman said yesterday.
The FBI verified that a body found in Iraq yesterday morning was that of Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va., spokesman Noel Clay said. He had no information on the other three hostages.
Clay did not know how Fox was killed but said additional forensics will be done in the United States and the US Embassy in Baghdad is investigating. Fox's family has been notified, he said.
''The State Department continues to call for the unconditional release of all other hostages" in Iraq, Clay said.
Fox's organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams, said yesterday, ''We mourn the loss of Tom Fox, who combined a lightness of spirit, a firm opposition to all oppression, and the recognition of God in everyone."
Christian Peacemaker co-directors Doug Pritchard and Carol Rose said in a statement, ''In response to Tom's passing, we ask that everyone set aside inclinations to vilify or demonize others, no matter what they have done."
''This guy was not after martyrdom by any means," said Paul Slattery of McLean, Va., who was a member of Fox's US-based support team. ''He actually believed in his heart that he would better them by his conviction and his beliefs and his skills, and I think largely succeeded.
''What he leaves behind is a tremendous challenge for the rest of us and a guiding force."
In Baghdad, police and the US military reported at least 20 more killings yesterday, including a US Marine who died in a car bombing in Fallujah. Police said they found the bodies of eight more men killed execution-style.A Sunni cleric was killed when a car bomber drove up to a mosque in Samarra, where a prominent Shi'ite shrine was bombed Feb. 22. Two police officers and one gunman died during shootings in a southern Baghdad market.
Fox was the one American among four Christian Peacemaker activists kidnapped last year .
On Tuesday, Al-Jazeera television aired footage of the three other activists purportedly appealing for their release. The hostages seen were Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32; and Briton Norman Kember, 74.
The previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigades claimed responsibility for kidnapping the workers, who disappeared Nov. 26.
The four had not been heard from since a videotape aired by Al-Jazeera on Jan. 28, dated from a week before. A statement reportedly accompanying that tape said the hostages would be killed unless all Iraqi prisoners were released . No deadline was set.
Christian Peacemaker Teams had been working in Iraq since October 2002, investigating allegations that US and Iraqi forces abused Iraqi detainees.
Slattery said Fox worked on three major projects: helping families of incarcerated Iraqis, escorting shipments of medicine to clinics and hospitals in Fallujah, and helping form Islamic Peacemaker Teams.
In the three years since the US-led coalition invaded Iraq, insurgents have kidnapped at least 250 foreigners and killed at least 40.
In one of the most high-profile cases, Jill Carroll, a freelance writer for The Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped Jan. 7. Three videotapes of Carroll delivered to Arab satellite television stations identified the group holding her as the Revenge Brigades.
Carroll's kidnappers have publicly demanded the release of all female detainees in Iraq. The Monitor launched a campaign on Iraqi television stations Wednesday asking Iraqis, in Arabic, to, ''Please help with the release of journalist Jill Carroll."
The list of those kidnapped and killed in Iraq includes Margaret Hassan, the director of CARE international in Iraq and a citizen of Britain, Ireland and Iraq; Ronald Schulz, an industrial electrician from Anchorage, Alaska; Nicholas Berg, a businessman from West Chester, Pa.; Jack Hensley, a civil engineer from Marietta, Ga.; and Eugene ''Jack" Armstrong, formerly of Hillsdale, Mich.
Allan Slater, a Canadian member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, said he was disturbed not to see Fox on Tuesday when the footage of the other three captives was aired.
''We certainly are hopeful when we see three of our friends alive," Slater said at the time, ''but also it's very distressing that we didn't see Tom Fox, and I wouldn't want to hide that because I'm sure it's very distressful for Tom's family and friends as well."