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
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
The actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
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 apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Test Lead - Financial Reporting - Banking - London

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Banking, Financial Reporting, ...

Business Analyst, Retail Bank, £375-400p/d

£375 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Embedded Software Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + V. Competitive : Progressive Recruitment: Embedded...

Senior SAP HR Business Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a Global Professional Service...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game