By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, September 8, 2005
BAGHDAD, Sept. 7 -- U.S. forces freed an American contractor Wednesday in a raid on an isolated farmhouse outside Baghdad where he had been held bound and gagged, U.S. military officials in Baghdad and his family in the United States said.
Roy Hallums, 57, had been abducted at gunpoint from his catering office in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood on Nov. 1 after a gun battle in which an Iraqi guard and an attacker were killed.
Last seen publicly in a video released in January in which he pleaded for help with a gun at his head, Hallums was in good condition after his release, the military and his family said.
U.S. forces had been tipped off by a detainee taken into custody early Wednesday, a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, said in Baghdad. The troops roughly determined the location of the farmhouse, in a village 15 miles south of Baghdad, and swept in less than three hours later, Boylan said.
Another kidnap victim, identified by U.S. forces as an Iraqi citizen named Ahmed, was also rescued. Hallums told his daughter in a telephone call to her Los Angeles-area home that his captors fled without a battle, the Associated Press reported from California.
Hallums's first words were to apologize "for putting me through any hardship" with the kidnapping, Carrie Anne Cooper told the AP.
"He got to say he was sorry, and I got to say I loved him," she said. "We got to say things we never thought we would be able to say."
Hallums, formerly of Newport Beach, Calif., worked for a Saudi company doing catering for the Iraqi army.
Though Hallums and his wife had divorced, in part because of the strains of his job in Baghdad, she and the rest of the family worked to keep his cause active, holding candlelight vigils and sending word of a promised $40,000 reward to Iraq.
Kidnappings for ransom are frequent in the Mansour district, but it was not clear whether Hallums's abductors were motivated by ideology or money. Some Western contractors abducted by the group al Qaeda in Iraq or other insurgent groups have been beheaded, with their slayings shown on Internet videos.
In recent months, kidnapping of Westerners in Iraq has decreased, in part because many have left the country or taken shelter in Baghdad's Green Zone or other heavily guarded compounds.
Jeffrey J. Ake, 47, an American contractor abducted from a water treatment plant in the Baghdad area, is among the remaining kidnapped Westerners whose fates are unknown. The last public word of Ake came in a video released shortly after his April 11 kidnapping, showing him with automatic weapons pointed at his head.