Four Americans, Three French Soldiers, Three Irish Freed From Iraq
Nov. 04, 1990
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Four freed American hostages, three French soldiers and three Irishmen flew to freedom Saturday after Iraqi authorities released them from captivity.
One of the freed Americans - among thousands of Westerners still trapped in Iraq and occupied Kuwait - had been held as a ''human shield'' at an Iraqi installation. The four did not speak to reporters, except to say they were tired.
In Baghdad, the four were identified as: Dr. Abdul Kangi, 50, from Glencoe, Ill.; Raymond Gales, from the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, whose hometown was not immediately available; and Michael Barner, 49, of Woodsworth, La.; and Randall Trinh, 49, of Hacienda Heights, Calif.
Trinh had been held at an undisclosed strategic site in Iraq. The Baghdad government has held some Americans and other Westerners at such sites to deter any air attack by foreign forces.
The commercial Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad carried 77 other evacuees, mostly Arabs.
U.S. Embassy officials who met the flight in Amman said the Americans would return home Sunday.
Arrangements were made for the French soldiers to leave for Paris on a scheduled Air France flight late Saturday.
Airport sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Americans would fly to New York via Cyprus and London.
The French soldiers, who were turned over to the French Embassy in Baghdad after Iraqi troops captured them Monday, walked into the arrival lounge followed by the four Americans.
French diplomats hustled the three soldiers to a VIP lounge, while U.S. Embassy officials rushed the freed Americans into a glassed-in arrival lounge. The embassy said they were receiving counseling.
A French Embassy spokeswoman expressed appreciation for Iraq's ''good gesture'' in freeing the three soldiers, but added that they were allowed to depart freely because all French citizens are now able ''to leave Baghdad at any time.''
More than 250 French citizens were released by the Iraqis last week, but thousands of other foreigners are still prevented from leaving.
Three men who identified themselves as Irish joined the French soldiers in the transit lounge. They refused to disclose their names, but one, carrying an Irish passport in his hand, confirmed, ''Yes, we were hostages.''
Irish Embassy officials were not available for a comment.
A U.S. Embassy official said the four Americans were released ''for humanitarian reasons.''
Iraq said Thursday they were being freed because they were ''sick and elderly,'' although three were listed as being 50 or under.
U.S. Embassy sources in Baghdad said Trinh suffered an acute stomach ulcer. They said Barner suffered from a neurological disorder. If the other two were ill, their ailments were not disclosed.
In Glencoe, Kangi's wife, Fatima, said she and her husband were Tanzanian- born Moslems who became American citizens about eight years ago. She said they went to Iraq with their two sons on a religious pilgrimage on July 30. She and the children were allowed to leave Iraq on Sept. 5, but her husband, director of radiation therapy at Chicago's Mercy Hospital, had to stay behind, she said.
The four returning American men were accompanied by two members of an American group called the Fellowship for Reconciliation, who had been in Baghdad for more than two weeks seeking the release of Americans.
They are Tarek Mohammed Al-Heneidy, a businessmann from Rockport, Mass., and a Roman Catholic priest, the Rev. Michael Kenny of Juneau, Alaska.
Heneidy told reporters that Iraq's release of the hostages was a ''clear sign that a peaceful solution was very possible if world governments pushed for peace.''
Pat Humphries, Barner's sister, said she didn't know why her brother had been released.
She said her mother had talked to him by telephone at least once a week during his captivity.
''Every time he called, he was treated very well. One day he called and he'd just got through eating roast and mashed potatoes and gravy. The food situation in Baghdad must not (have been) as bad in Baghdad as it was in Kuwait,'' she said in the interview in Alexandria, La.
Prospects for freedom improved for some of the other captive foreigners on Saturday. Iraq's National Assembly voted 225-25 to allow the 700 Bulgarians remaining in Iraq and Kuwait to leave.
Those who voted against the request said that Bulgaria was not neutral but was allied with the multinational efforts to dislodge Iraq from Kuwait.
The assembly earlier approved a similar request by President Saddam Hussein to allow French citizens to go home. More than 250 French nationals left on Monday.
Iraq's National Council speaker, Sadi Mehdi Saleh, told Irish and Italian parliamentarians that Baghdad would soon announce an offer to free all the captive foreigners in exchange for a guarantee that Iraq would not be attacked.
Baghdad had made similar offers in the past.
About 1 million foreigners fled Kuwait and Iraq after the invasion, but an estimated 2 million others remain in the two countries. They include about 1,000 Americans.
At least two former leaders were launching efforts to win the release of their countries' citizens.
Former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt was going to Iraq on Monday at the invitation of Saddam. Brandt won the 1971 Nobel Peace Prize for helping to improve East-West ties.
Japan's former prime minister, Yasuhiro Nakasone, arrived in Baghdad Saturday. Although his trip is private, it has the support of his government.