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Iraq Transition

Brothers: Hostages were gathering evidence of abuse in Iraq

U.S. military: Iraqis capture al Qaeda operative known as 'Butcher'

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(CNN) -- With a Saturday execution deadline looming, the brothers of a Canadian man held hostage in Iraq made another plea to his abductors, saying Friday that their brother was in Iraq to gather information on alleged human rights abuses.

James Loney, 41, and three other Christian Peacemaker Teams aid workers -- Canadian Harmeet Sooden, 32, Briton Norman Kember, 74, and American Tom Fox, 54 -- were kidnapped in Iraq on November 26.

A group calling itself the Swords of Justice Brigades threatened to execute the men on Thursday unless all Iraqi prisoners were released. The group later extended its deadline to Saturday. (Full story)

The four men have been gathering evidence about people being treated poorly while "detained by occupation forces," Edward Loney said.

"So it was important for my brother's team to be there to hear the testimonials of people who are being snatched up in the night and detained against their will," Edward Loney said. "He has really strong values about peace and loving people equally, and getting a message out about human rights, the importance of human rights for all individuals."

Matthew Loney, who said his brother has been to Iraq three times, added that the four men were gathering information once left to other humanitarian groups, the ranks of which have thinned because of insurgent attacks.

The brothers said they have received tremendous support domestically and abroad, especially from Muslims.

"We're really encouraged by the fact that his work has not gone unnoticed," said Matthew Loney.

Edward Loney added: "We know that the work that you're doing is important, and you've got our support 100 percent."

Matthew Loney closed by saying, "We love you, James, and we're thinking about you. We're thinking about all four of you, and we want to see you back. We want to see you around the card table playing some cards with us."

'Butcher' captured

A high-ranking member of al Qaeda in Iraq, known as the "Butcher," was captured by local citizens and turned over to the U.S. military and Iraqi forces, the U.S. military said.

Amir Khalaf Fanus was wanted in connection with several killings and kidnappings and was No. 3 on the most-wanted list of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team that patrols the area west of Baghdad.

Local citizens brought him to a base in the city of Ramadi, in the Sunni Triangle about 60 miles west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Further details were not available.

"His capture is another indication that the local citizens tire of the insurgents' presence within their community," the U.S. military said in a written statement. "Iraqi and U.S. forces have witnessed increasing signs of citizens fighting the terrorists within Ramadi as the December 15 national elections draw nearer."

Security in Ramadi has recently been bolstered by the addition of 1,200 Iraqi security-force soldiers, a move the Pentagon hopes will enable Iraq forces to take over more security operations.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is the terrorist group headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most-wanted man in Iraq, who has a $25 million reward for his head. His group has carried out numerous bomb attacks on local Iraqis, U.S. forces and Iraqi forces.

The group also has perpetrated multiple kidnappings that have resulted in the beheadings of the victims.

It was not immediately known if Fanus might have information on al-Zarqawi's whereabouts.

Bombing kill U.S. soldier

Elsewhere, a U.S. soldier died Friday when a suicide car bomber attacked a unit operating in west Baghdad, the U.S. military said Saturday.

The soldier, assigned to Task Force Baghdad, was killed in the incident in the Abu Ghraib district, the military said in a statement. Eleven other soldiers and an Iraqi civilian were wounded.

In a separate incident, the military said a soldier assigned to the 155th Brigade Combat Team, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), died of a suspected heart attack while on guard duty Thursday at Forward Operating Base Kalsu. Several U.S. Army units are attached to the II Marine Expeditionary Force during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Both soldiers' names were withheld pending notification of relatives.

Since the war began, 2,137 U.S. troops have died in Iraq.

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