- The Washington Times - Monday, May 19, 2003

The Iraqi lawyer granted asylum in the United States after risking his life to lead U.S. Special Forces teams in a daring pre-dawn rescue operation for captured and wounded Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch is writing a book about his experience.

Mohammed Odeh Al Rehaief’s book, tentatively titled “Rescue in Nasiriya,” is expected to be published in October by HarperCollins. It will be co-written by Jeff Coplon, who helped write “Return With Honor,” the story of Air Force pilot Capt. Scott O’Grady’s survival in Bosnia in 1995 after he had been shot down.

Mr. Al Rehaief, 33 — along with his wife, Iman, and 5-year-old daughter — were granted asylum April 10 by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services after a decision by the Department of Homeland Security approving the family for “humanitarian parole.”

The asylum allows Mr. Al Rehaief to live and work in the United States and eventually apply for citizenship.

Pfc. Lynch, 20, sustained a head wound, spinal injury, fractures to her right arm and both legs, and injuries to her right ankle and foot. The soldier, held at Saddam Hussein Hospital in the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah until her rescue, 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 Pfc. Lynch, who is from Palestine, W.Va.

Mr. Al Rehaief sought help from the U.S. military six miles from the Nasiriyah hospital after he and his wife, a nurse at the facility, saw Pfc. Lynch being slapped by one of the facility’s security guards. Using a map drawn by Mr. Al Rahaief, the soldier’s location was pinpointed by the Defense Intelligence Agency after it equipped and trained an Iraqi informant with a concealed video camera.

The rescue team went to the hospital in helicopters and found Pfc. Lynch. She 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 were rescued later north of Baghdad. All have 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, then to the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. He stayed there until passports and visas for entry to the United States for him and his family could be obtained. He injured his left eye during one of the trips to visit with Marines when he came under fire.

“He has one heck of a story to tell,” said one U.S. military official familiar with his stay in Kuwait. “I can’t wait for the book. There’s a lot more to the story than what’s being reported.”

Officials at HarperCollins did not return telephone calls for comment. They also did not respond to an e-mail seeking information on the pending book.

Mr. Al Rahaief, who was honored earlier this month by the Delaware State Bar Association for portraying the “highest ideals of lawyers” in his assist in rescuing a “defenseless American citizen,” has accepted a job offer from a Washington lobbying firm, the Livingston Group. The firm was founded by former Rep. Bob Livingston and has clients from Arabic-speaking countries.

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