- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Iraqi lawyer who risked his life to lead U.S. special-operations teams to captured Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch has been granted asylum in the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said yesterday.
Mohammed Odeh Al Rehaief, 33, along with his wife and 5-year-old daughter, were given asylum during a closed-door session on Monday in Arlington, allowing him to live and work in America and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.
Mr. Al Rehaief and his family arrived in this country April 10 after the Department of Homeland Security approved them for "humanitarian parole," which led to their asylum grant by the department's Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"I am very heartened to tell you the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services granted asylum yesterday to Mohammad Al Rahaief, who provided critical information to our United States Marines which led to the location and rescue of Private Jessica Lynch," Mr. Ridge said during a speech at the National Press Club.
"Mister Al Rahaief should know that Americans are grateful for his bravery and for his compassion. And the Iraqi people should know that America stands beside them," he said.
Pfc. Lynch, 20, suffered a head wound, spinal injury and fractures to her right arm and both legs, and to her right ankle and foot. She is being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
U.S. military officials said Mr. Al Rehaief walked several miles through hostile areas of Iraq on numerous occasions to meet with American soldiers and CIA officials and, eventually, to lead them to the seriously wounded West Virginia soldier.
He sought help from the U.S. military after he and his wife, a nurse at the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Nasiriyah where Pfc. Lynch was being held, saw the bandaged soldier being slapped by one of the facility's security guards. Using a map drawn by Mr. Al Rahaief, the soldier's exact location later was pinpointed by the Defense Intelligence Agency after it equipped and trained an Iraqi informant with a concealed video camera.
The informant reportedly walked through the hospital, videotaping entrances and documenting a route to Pfc. Lynch's room as preparation for the nighttime raid by Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and other special-operations forces. The unidentified informant was paid for his services, according to U.S. intelligence sources, and has remained in Iraq.
The rescue team went to the hospital in helicopters and found Pfc. Lynch. The Palestine, W.Va., native served as a supply clerk with the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, which was ambushed March 23 after making a wrong turn in Nasiriyah.
Several members of her unit were killed. She was among six soldiers from the unit who were captured. As the most severely wounded, she was left in the hospital, while five others later were rescued north of Baghdad. All have since been returned to the United States.
After Pfc. Lynch's rescue, Mr. Al Rehaief was taken by the U.S. military to a refugee center in Iraq, where he and his family applied for asylum.
Under U.S. law, asylum seekers must show a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, ethnicity or political opinion to be successful.
Homeland Security spokesman Bill Strassberger said that while the granting of humanitarian parole for a nonmedical emergency is rare, it can be awarded under urgent circumstances.
He said that although the U.S. military had gained control of Iraq, it could not assure the safety of Mr. Al Rahaief or his family.
"We felt there definitely was grounds to provide additional assistance for what he was able to do to help Jessica Lynch," he said. "This is obviously a very unusual situation for immigration purposes, but it was the fastest way of getting them to safety in the United States."
Also yesterday, Mr. Ridge said that the Department of Homeland Security deployed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to the Middle East before the Iraqi war began, embedded with U.S. military units to help trace, among other things, the source of the nearly $700 million in U.S. currency seized to date.

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