|Page (1) of 1 - 03/17/12||email article||print page|
US citizen captured by militia in Iraq handed over the United Nations
BAGHDAD (AP) ' Wearing a U.S. Army uniform and flanked by Iraqi lawmakers, an American citizen announced Saturday that he was being released from more than nine months of imprisonment by a Shiite militia that for years targeted U.S. troops.
The man did not identify himself. But at a bizarre press conference outside the Green Zone in Baghdad, lawmakers showed U.S.-issued military and contractor ID cards that identified him as Randy Michael Hultz.
He spoke calmly but gave scant details of what he described as a "kidnapping," or how he was treated while captured.
"I was taken inside Baghdad and kept in and around different locations within the city," he said. The kidnappers, he said, were from the Promised Day Brigade, a branch of the Mahdi Army, which is a militia that is controlled by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Of his release, he said: "It was explained to me that this is a gift to me, my family and to the American people."
He said he deployed to Iraq early in the war as an active-duty soldier but left the military after 15 months. At that point, he said, he worked in a "civilian capacity" until his kidnapping on June 18, 2011.
He did not wear any patches on his uniform that would identify his rank or what unit he may have served with.
He was taken into the Green Zone and turned over to the United Nations mission in Iraq immediately after the press conference by Sadrist lawmakers Qusay al-Suhail, the deputy speaker of Iraq's parliament, and Maha al-Douri, a Sadrist parliament members.
U.N. spokeswoman Radhia Achouri confirmed that the man was at the mission's compound Saturday night while the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad tried to verify his identity. He was transferred to the embassy late Saturday, spokesman Michael McClellan said.
Hundreds of thousands of contractors, both American and other nationalities, worked alongside American troops and in other support roles throughout the nine-year war.
In an interview with The Associated Press, senior Sadrist official Abdul Hadi al-Mutairi said the man was released without any negotiation "as a good will initiative toward the American society and to (his) family."
He said the man, whom he said is married and has two sons, was treated well during his nine month imprisonment," even though he contributed in the battles in Sadr City and in Najaf.
The man said he was grateful for his release.
Associated Press Writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.