Militant Iraqi group releases American hostage

Sunday, March 28, 2010

BAGHDAD -- An American contractor held hostage by a Shiite militant group in Iraq was returned to U.S. custody this week, the Defense Department said in a statement Saturday.

The Pentagon said the circumstances surrounding the disappearance in January of Issa T. Salomi, 60, of El Cajon, Calif., were under investigation. But the militant group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, suggested on a Web site the group uses that Salomi was released in exchange for four detainees in U.S. custody.

The U.S. military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Salomi's kidnapping followed the breakdown of talks between the Iraqi government and the group that U.S. and Iraqi officials had hoped would lead to reconciliation. The U.S. military has released hundreds of the group's members in a failed attempt to neutralize it.

Last month, Salomi appeared in a video posted on the Web site used by the militant group demanding the release of detainees in U.S. custody and calling for the punishment of the guards employed by Blackwater Worldwide -- now known as Xe Services -- who were involved in a 2007 shooting incident in Baghdad in which 14 Iraqis died.

-- Leila Fadel

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