By Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 24, 2008
U.S. authorities on Wednesday identified the body of Jonathon Cote, a private security contractor who was abducted 17 months ago in Iraq with four colleagues.
Cote's body was the last to be recovered from one of the largest kidnappings of Americans since the Iraq war began in 2003. The four other hostages, along with another missing American contractor who had been held with them, were found dead earlier this month.
Cote's body was recovered near the southern city of Basra, not far from where he was taken hostage Nov. 16, 2006, according to his family. His body was flown from Iraq to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where it was identified.
"We loved Jon and we miss him, and we thank God that he was able to serve his country," said his father, Francis Cote, a computer technician who served 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. "There's no other way to put it: He was killed while serving his country."
Cote, 25, of suburban Buffalo, was a former Army paratrooper who left the University of Florida after his freshman year to become a private security contractor in Iraq. He worked for Kuwait-based Crescent Security Group, a small firm that was later banned from U.S. bases in Iraq for possessing illegal offensive weapons.
The kidnapping, which occurred in daylight on Iraq's main highway, underscored the lawlessness and lack of regulation surrounding the private security industry, which employs tens of thousands of hired guns in support of the U.S. coalition. Four Americans, including Cote, and an Austrian contractor were seized.
On the day of the kidnapping, Crescent sent Cote and six other men to protect a supply convoy stretching more than a mile. Two of the men were left behind in a truck as the attackers fled with the victims.