- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2004

BAGHDAD— In a daring escape, American hostage Thomas Hamill pried open the doors of the house where he was being held yesterday morning and ran a half-mile to a military convoy passing by, officials and his wife said.

Across Iraq, insurgents attacked U.S. forces, killing 11 Americans.

Mr. Hamill, 43, of Macon, Miss., identified himself to the U.S. soldiers, then led them to his Iraqi abductors, two of whom were captured.

Mr. Hamill, a truck driver for a Halliburton Corp. subsidiary, was abducted April 9 by gunmen who ambushed the convoy he was with on the outskirts of the capital, Baghdad. An American soldier abducted in the attack remains missing, and at least four of Mr. Hamill’s co-workers were killed.

There had been no word from Mr. Hamill since the day after the attack, when his kidnappers released a video of him standing before an Iraqi flag and threatened to kill him within 12 hours unless the United States ended its siege of Fallujah, about 35 miles west of Baghdad.



Mr. Hamill’s escape came two days after Marines started pulling back from Fallujah under a new agreement ending their assault on the insurgent stronghold.

Mr. Hamill’s wife, Kellie, was called about 5:50 a.m. CDT with news of his escape and later spoke to her husband.

“He sounded wonderful, so wonderful. He said he was fine,” she said from the couple’s Mississippi home. “He said he was more worried about his mom, his grandmother, me and our kids.”

Meanwhile, 11 troops were killed in separate attacks, the military said, raising the U.S. death toll to 151 since a wave of violence began April 1. At least 753 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the war began March 2003.

Six U.S. service members were killed and 30 were wounded in a mortar attack near Ramadi.

The city is about 60 miles west of Baghdad in Anbar province, which includes Fallujah. A military spokeswoman gave no further details and did not say whether the victims were Marines or Army soldiers, but most Americans stationed there are Marines.

Another U.S. soldier was killed and 10 were wounded in a bomb and small-arms attack on a coalition base near the northern city of Kirkuk.

Overnight, Shi’ite militiamen attacked a U.S. convoy with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades near Amarah, 180 miles south of Baghdad. Two soldiers were killed, the military said.

Through the night and into yesterday morning, Iraqis set fire to the long line of abandoned vehicles, jumping on the hoods and beating them with sticks.

An attack in northwest Baghdad killed two soldiers and wounded two Iraqi security officers and another American, the military said.

U.S. troops also exchanged gunfire yesterday near Najaf with militiamen loyal to Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi’ite preacher charged in the killing of a rival cleric last year.

In the southern city of Basra, a mortar shell exploded late yesterday near the headquarters of the traffic police, killing one civilian, police Lt. Col. Ali Kadhim said. Minutes later, gunmen killed a policeman at a checkpoint, he said. It was not clear whether the attacks were coordinated.

Mr. Hamill was discovered about 11:15 a.m. local time when he approached a patrol from the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment, part of the New York National Guard, in the town of Balad. The town is about 50 miles north of where he was abducted in the western Baghdad area of Abu Ghraib.

Mr. Hamill said he was locked in a building and heard the troops driving by, his wife said. He “pried the door open. He said he ran half a mile down the road and caught up with the convoy.

“Isn’t that something?” Mrs. Hamill said.

Soldiers then went to the house and arrested two Iraqis and confiscated an AK-47 rifle, the military said.

Mr. Hamill, a truck driver working for KBR — a Halliburton subsidiary formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root, was flown by helicopter to Baghdad to be treated for an infected gunshot wound in the left arm, said Maj. Neal O’Brien, a spokesman for U.S. troops in nearby Tikrit. The video images of Mr. Hamill soon after his abduction showed his left arm in a sling, suggesting that he was wounded during the attack on his convoy.

“He has spoken to his family. He is now ready to get back to work,” U.S. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said in Baghdad.

In a statement on its Web site, Halliburton said, “Tommy is a courageous hero and we are proud of his resolve, resilience and refusal to give up hope.”

Mr. Hamill’s abduction came at the height of a wave of kidnappings of foreigners sparked by the intense violence that began a month ago. Up to 40 foreign nationals were abducted, though most were freed. One hostage, an Italian, was executed.

An American soldier, Pfc. Keith M. Maupin, remains in captivity, as do three Italian security guards.

Pfc. Maupin, who grew up near Batavia, Ohio, and Mr. Hamill were in the same convoy, which came under attack amid an insurgent campaign against supply routes around the capital.

Besides Mr. Hamill and Pfc. Maupin, six KBR employees and another U.S. soldier initially were reported missing.

The bodies of four KBR employees were found in a shallow grave near the site of the attack. The body of Sgt. Elmer Krause of Greensboro, N.C., also was found.

Halliburton said it had no information on the two KBR employees still missing.

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