Hamill In Good Condition After Iraqi Escape - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

05/03/04

Hamill In Good Condition After Iraqi Escape

Former American hostage Thomas Hamill, who escaped his Iraqi captors after three weeks, was brought to a U.S. military hospital in Germany on Monday for a checkup and treatment of a gunshot wound.

"He's doing good, very good,'' said Marie Shaw, spokeswoman for the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. "He's in the medical surgical ward. He should be able to go home by the end of the week.''

Hamill, a 43-year-old civilian contractor from Mississippi, was expected to reunite with his wife, Kellie Hamill, at Landstuhl on Tuesday, officials said.

Hamill, of Macon, Miss., pried open the doors of the house where he was being held late Sunday morning and ran a half-mile to a U.S. military convoy passing by near the town of Balad north of Baghdad.

A truck driver for a Halliburton Corp. subsidiary, Hamill was captured April 9 by gunmen who blasted the supply convoy he was driving on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Hamill's captors had threatened to kill him unless the United States lifted its siege on the city of Fallujah.

After Hamill broke out of the house, he removed his shirt, waved it and began shouting in English at the soldiers as he ran toward them, members of the patrol said at a briefing in Baghdad. At first, they said they thought he might be an Iraqi farmer.

"He was yelling, 'I'm an American, I'm an American, I'm an American POW,''' said 1st Lt. Joe Merrill.

"From a distance, it was obvious he was unarmed, so we did not have our weapons trained on him,'' Merrill said.

He added that Hamill did not say anything about being tortured.

Capt. George Rodriguez said aiding in Hamill's rescue "actually felt kind of good - something that I think everybody wants to do.''

Hamill was brought to the U.S. military facilities hours before California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was due to stop over on his way home from a Middle East trip to meet U.S. troops. It was not immediately known whether the two would meet.

A C-141 transport plane brought Hamill to the Ramstein Air Base in rural western Germany, from where he was taken to the medical center for a checkup, Shaw said.

The U.S. military has said Hamill is in overall good health, but the gunshot wound to his left arm might be infected.

Hamill was among seven American contractors kidnapped in the April 9 attack. The bodies of four have been found, and two are missing.

A U.S. soldier kidnapped in the same convoy attack as Hamill, Pfc. Keith M. Maupin, was seen in separate video footage. The remains of a second military man missing in the attack, Sgt. Elmer Krause, were identified April 23.

Also missing are three Italian security guards kidnapped on April 12 as they took a taxi from Baghdad. A fourth Italian who was abducted with them was later executed. Hamill's family exulted at the news of his escape.

Leo Hamill said he fell asleep Saturday night while watching a television newscast and woke Sunday to a bulletin reporting his son's escape.

"I knew when I saw him on TV, I knew it was him,'' the teary-eyed father said. "I hoped they would return him safe.''

His wife said she got a call at about 5:50 a.m. telling her that her husband was free. He later called home, "the best wake-up call I've ever had,'' she said.

President Bush learned of Hamill's escape Sunday morning.

"It's great news for all Americans, and the president is happy for Mr. Hamill and family,'' White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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