Kidnapped Briton was quiet pacifist who felt drawn to war zone

But in the aftermath of the war he ultimately could not stop, the dedicated churchgoer and pillar of his community in north-west London had been troubled by a desire to become more closely involved with the conflict. Six months ago, he wrote: "Personally it has always worried me that I am a 'cheap' peacemaker. Being in Britain talking, writing, demonstrating about peace is in no way taking risks like young servicemen in Iraq. I look for excuses why I should not become involved."

On Saturday, Mr Kember, a self-effacing man who declined social engagements to concentrate on his peace campaigning, paid a grim price for running out of excuses not to witness the suffering of Iraqis for himself.

Two weeks ago the professor, distinguished by his shock of white hair and his six foot-plus frame, left the modest detached house he shares with his wife in a tree-lined avenue in Pinner for the battle-scarred streets of Baghdad. In circumstances that last night remained unclear, he was kidnapped along with two Canadians and an American in a suburb of the city.

Mr Kember, a father-of-two and grandfather who is a leading member of his local Baptist church and was a radiation physicist at Barts Medical College and the University of London, now finds himself at grave risk of becoming a victim of the war he had campaigned so vigorously against.

His group, who were investigating human rights abuses, had reportedly been travelling with "minimal security" when they were seized in the west of the city after dark on Saturday.

The men were in the final days of a two-week fact-finding trip with a Canada-based humanitarian organisation, Christian Peacemaker Teams (PCT). The group, which was working with Iraqi groups and was not involved in missionary work, had been due to return on Friday.

Mr Kember, a man described as "absorbed in his faith", had attended faith conferences in South America and Europe, but this was the first time that Mr Kember had been to Iraq or any war zone.

The absence of any news of the four men's well-being or demands from their captors gave rise to fears that the motive for their abduction may be political rather than financial.

The Foreign Office said that a multinational "hostage crisis" team had been set up in Baghdad to try to secure the release of the men. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said that the Iraqi authorities had pledged "every assistance" to free the captives.

In a separate incident, two Britons were killed and three injured yesterday when gunmen ambushed a minibus carrying Shia pilgrims to religious sites south of Baghdad. The dead men were named as Saifuddin Makai, 39, from Streatham, south London, and Husain Mohammedali, 50, from Harrow, north-west London.

Yesterday Mr Kember's neighbours in Pinner expressed surprise that he was in Baghdad. One man said: "I was surprised to see him in Iraq at all, let alone in trouble. I knew him as a quiet adventurer, someone who travelled a lot around the world. But guns in Baghdad is something else."

But friends of Mr Kember and his wife, Pat, a retired teacher, who was being comforted by family members last night at an undisclosed location, underlined the retired researcher's devotion to the causes he cherished.

One of the Kembers' daughters, also a teacher, and her husband travelled from their home in Dorset yesterday to be with her mother.

The Rev Alan Betteridge, president of the UK Baptist Peace Fellowship, who has known Mr Kember for more than 40 years, said: "Norman is a very committed worker for non-violence and peacemaking. He is a very gentle man, quiet, with a good sense of humour.

"He does not try to force his views on people - a listener rather than a talker and very committed to what he believes. I hope he has the opportunity to tell his captors about his work."

CPT, a pacifist group based in Toronto which cites the removal of coalition forces from Iraq as one of its aims, declined to comment on the abductions.

Mr Kember was part of a delegation of around eight people who had gone to Iraq to meet local human rights campaigners and assist with the setting up of a Muslim peacemakers' organisation. The organisation had sent four previous civilian delegations to Iraq.

Suggested Topics
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
News
With its new studios in Paris, Dailymotion has reinforced its position as Europe’s most-visited website
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit