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Thomas Hamill Found Alive by U.S. Troops

Aired May 2, 2004 - 07:00   ET


RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: That was Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt reporting some very good news for the coalition and for the family and friends of 43-year old Thomas Hamill, the American contractor for Halliburton, who was -- had been taken hostage by insurgents.
They say that he was recovered by the coalition authority soldiers. Apparently, a stroke of luck here. It just looked like he had managed to escape from his captors, walked out of a building, identified himself to coalition soldiers, said he was Thomas Hamill. He is now providing information to the military. Not a lot more information about his condition or how he was treated during captivity.

We go now to CNN's Ben Wedeman, who has more on this -- Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this was a complete surprise, actually. No one anticipating this sort of news. We've all been focused very much on Fallujah and Najaf. So yes, it appears that the -- he was captured on the 9th of April around Abu Ghraib, which is just on the outskirts of Baghdad, but he escaped from his captors in Tikrit, which is a good two hour's drive to the north -- due north of Baghdad. And apparently, this was not a rescue operation. Somehow, he managed to escape from his captors. And of course, General Kimmitt not giving any details about who they are or how they treated this gentlemen.

But he somehow escaped from the building -- a building where he was being held, walked up to U.S. soldiers, and identified himself. So quite a surprise, this bit of news. Obviously, a bit of good news for many people in the United States.

SAN MIGUEL: Indeed, Ben, a pleasant surprise. Take us back to April 9, the situation involving that convoy, that Halliburton convoy that was attacked by insurgents. And from what I recall, from what I remember, Thomas Hamill would seem to be the only surviving member of that convoy. Is that correct?

WEDEMAN: That is correct. And you'll have to recall that this was at a time when really the situation was looking very dodgy here in Baghdad with an uprising in Sadr City with Fallujah beginning to blow up. So that was a very difficult day here in Baghdad for -- obviously for that convoy.

And it's been what, now almost a month that he was held. And the coalition was doing its best to try to find out where he was. Obviously, they're very concerned about his whereabouts and well being. So yes, here we find them -- hundreds of -- at least more than 100 miles away from Baghdad. The question is how did he get there?

There are checkpoints all along that road. So his captors obviously evaded all of that and ended up in -- of course, Tikrit, which is Saddam's birthplace.

SAN MIGUEL: Exactly. And you know, as we heard General Kimmitt say, a lot of people obviously wanted to have some requests to talk to Mr. Hamill and find out exactly what happened.

Now we had not heard -- I'm not sure, remind us if we had heard any kind of demands from his captors, much like the -- demands that we have heard from those who have taken the Italian citizens hostage in Iraq, saying that the -- you know, there has to be a demonstration in Italy against the coalition's presence in Iraq for those captives to be freed.

Had we heard anything along those lines and -- for Mr. Hamill? And what does that say about the nature of, you know, the coordination of the insurgency when they're taking these hostages?

WEDEMAN: Well, you have to remember that yes, many hostages have been taken in Iraq, but it appears that it is not part of some concerted campaign. Word is that it's really individual groups are just -- groups of people who decided that they would try their luck with taking hostages.

Now what this says in his case, now no demands to the best of my knowledge were made for his return. But clearly, these people who kidnapped him have a good deal of ability to move around the country. Both areas, Abu Ghraib and Tikrit are predominantly Sunni. So we can assume that it was some group linked by tribal affiliation or possibly from the old regime.

But as I said, kidnapping, which fortunately seems to have not been very frequent in recent weeks, at the time, it seemed to be suddenly something of a fad among those who want to make life difficult for the coalition.

SAN MIGUEL: All right, Ben, we're going to let you go off and get some more information on this. Thank you very much for that.

Again, the coalition reporting that 43-year old Thomas Hamill, who had been taken hostage on April 9 by insurgents, a truck driver for Halliburton, was found by -- was recovered in the words of the coalition by coalition soldiers. He was taken captive near Baghdad, near the Abu Ghraib prison and was found more than 100 miles away in Tikrit, which is Saddam Hussein's ancestral hometown. We will have more on this as we get it.


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