Sunday, May 02, 2004

Halliburton Truck Driver Hamill Escapes Captors in Iraq

May 2 (Bloomberg) -- Thomas Hamill, a Mississippi truck driver with Halliburton Co.'s Kellogg, Brown & Root unit, who was kidnapped April 9 in Iraq, escaped and was recovered by U.S. forces near the northern city of Tikrit, military officials said.

Hamill ``is in good health,'' Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said at a brief press conference. Hamill, 43, was captured April 9 after an attack on his convoy west of Baghdad, in which at least four other Halliburton workers were killed.

``He had an opportunity to escape, saw some U.S. forces and made his dash,'' Air Force General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on ABC's ``This Week.'' ``That's all I know, at this point.''

At least 34 employees or contractors of Halliburton, the world's largest oilfield-services provider, have died in Iraq and Kuwait since the U.S.-led invasion last year. Houston-based Halliburton has more than 24,000 employees in the Middle East.

(here's what I want to point out regarding the reality in Iraq)

Halliburton, formerly headed by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, has received about $5.7 billion during the past 13 months for work in Iraq. Some members of Congress have said the company had an unfair advantage in getting contracts because of its connection with Cheney.

The company doesn't have details on two other workers who remain missing and ``we are working with the authorities and continue to do everything we can to assist the families, as well as our employees,'' according to a company statement on its Web site. The company said it was ``extremely grateful'' that Hamill was safe.

Hamill Praised

A videotape aired on an Arabic-language television station showed Hamill after his capture, surrounded by hooded gunmen and then being driven away.

``Tommy is a courageous hero and we are proud of his resolve, resilience and refusal to give up hope,'' according to a company statement on its Web site.

Hamill's wife, Kellie, told the Associated Press that she spoke with her husband by telephone early Sunday and said it was ``the best wake-up call I've ever had.''

``There has been a lot of praying and I am so grateful to everybody,'' she told AP. ``We're all so relieved, so excited.''

His hometown of Macon, Mississippi, held nightly vigils for Hamill and set up a fund to help the family.

``We're going to have a parade that never ends, and maybe a picnic,'' said Macon, Mississippi Mayor Dorothy Baker Hines.

Kellie Hamill, who supervises the Noxubee County 911 system, had open-heart surgery in February and has been home since then, Baker Hines said. Hamill also has a son and daughter who had just returned to school, she said.

Hamill Paying Debts

Thomas Hamill had sold the family dairy farm and joined Halliburton to pay off family debts, the mayor said.

``He could have been like a lot of people, file for bankruptcy, but he wanted to be a good man and pay his bills,'' Baker Hines said. ``He also knew he would be helping the Iraqi people.''

Still missing in Iraq is U.S. Army Private Keith Maupin, kidnapped at the same time as Hamill.

``At this point, I'm not aware of any word we have on him,'' Myers said. `But I can guarantee you that that's obviously something we follow very, very closely, trying to pick up any lead, so we can go get him.''


Other Revealing Concerns: The Torturing of Iraqi Prisoners

[A Daily Mirror photograph of one of the British troops caught in the act of kicking, stamping and urinating on a hooded Iraqi in Basra, southern Iraq.]

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