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American Engineer, Missing for a Week, Calls Wife From Baghdad

November 18, 1991

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) _ An American engineer missing for nearly a week telephoned his wife Monday from Baghdad to say he was safe and in the hands of the International Red Cross after straying over the Iraqi border from Kuwait.

″He’s safe and that’s about all I know,″ Phyllis Cordes said after the brief telephone conversation with her husband, Gordon Cordes.

″I’ve heard nothing from the Red Cross or the U.S. government. Since he called, all I’m getting about him is from the news media.″

A road engineer with the Kuwait Emergency Recovery Office, Cordes was last seen last Tuesday traveling north of Doha, a suburb of Kuwait City 60 miles south of the border. It was not yet clear how he mistakenly got into Iraq.

Mrs. Cordes said her 55-year-old husband, who works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River Commission, had volunteered to help rebuild the Kuwaiti transportation system in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War.

Karen Saddler, a spokeswoman with the International Committee of the Red Cross, said

The Iraqi Red Crescent - the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross - had handed Cordes to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baghdad, said committee spokeswoman Karen Saddler.

Ms. Saddler said representatives of the neutral Swiss agency would take Cordes to Kuwait on Tuesday.

She said the committee’s headquarters in Geneva had no information on his physical condition or on the circumstances of his resurfacing.

Mrs. Cordes said her husband did not have time during the brief call to explain how he ended up in Baghdad.

″All he could say was ’I’m OK. I’m still in Bagdad. I’m in the hands of the International Red Cross and I’ll call you when I get back to Kuwait,‴ she quoted her husband as saying. ″He also asked if the kids were OK.″

Iraq has previously returned civilians who have strayed across the poorly marked border.

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