Missing Workers Demonstrate Iraq Danger
HOUSTON (AP) _ The danger faced by Halliburton Co. employees in Iraq became more apparent over the weekend as the number of people missing after attacks on work convoys increased to seven.
Six workers went missing two days ago after an attack near Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said Monday. He refused to say whether they had been kidnapped. On Friday, Thomas Hamill, 43, was snatched by gunmen during an attack on a fuel convoy he was guarding.
All are employed by Kellogg, Brown & Root, which is a subsidiary of Houston-based Halliburton, the firm that Vice President Dick Cheney ran during the 1990s.
Like Halliburton, the politically connected KBR has a long history of working for the U.S. government. Previous government contracts included building the Phan Rang Air Base in Vietnam in 1965 and producing Navy ships during World War II.
More than 24,000 KBR employees and subcontractors are working in the Kuwait-Iraq region, said Wendy Hall, a Halliburton spokeswoman. Their duties include extinguishing oil well fires and cleaning oil sites.
``Our work is difficult and in a dangerous environment and we are angered and deeply saddened by this situation,″ Halliburton said in a statement. ``Halliburton and its subcontractors have lost about 30 personnel while performing services under our contracts in the Kuwait-Iraqi region.″
The company declined to identify the six missing workers or discuss details of the attack in order to protect their privacy, Hall said.
More than 30 foreigners from at least 12 countries have been kidnapped in recent days by insurgents.
Hamill’s captors had threatened to kill him unless U.S. troops ended their assault on the city of Fallujah. A deadline imposed by his abductors came and went Sunday morning with no word of his fate.
Hall said the company was ``anxious but prayerful″ that Hamill will be returned safely. She said the news of the additional missing workers was ``a grueling and difficult development, and we are working diligently to assist the families and the military in any way we can.″
Two men who drove trucks for Halliburton until this weekend, Stacy Clark and Stephen Herring, said it was becoming too dangerous in Iraq, their wives said Monday.
Donna Clark and Chrissy Herring, who were to meet their husbands at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston on Monday, said both men were in convoys that were ambushed last week.
Donna Clark, 31, said her husband was ``in a panic″ when told her he was coming home. Both men said there was not enough protection in the convoys, the wives said.
Halliburton offered drivers and other workers $80,000 tax-free for working in Iraq for a year, or up to $120,000 with overtime. However, workers are allowed to return home without questions.
Halliburton has earned as much as $6 billion in contracts from the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but the company has been under fire for allegedly overcharging the government. Halliburton denies wrongdoing and says the company is a political target.
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