Mar
17

Iraq’s Sadr movement says it frees US soldier

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Followers of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr say they have handed captive soldier over to UN mission in Iraq

Followers of Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr handed over a captive American soldier to the United Nations alive on Saturday, two senior officials in Sadr’s movement have said.

The officials said the soldier, whom they named phonetically as Randy Michael or Randy Michael Hill, had been handed over to the UN mission in Iraq. A spokeswoman for the UN mission said she was not immediately able to comment.

If the identity of the captive is confirmed, the incident would appear to contradict the Pentagon, which said in February it had recovered the remains of the last soldier it believed to be missing in Iraq.

Al-Hurra Arabic-language satellite television broadcast a video of two Sadrist members of parliament seated next to a man in a US military uniform, at what it said was his release.

During the US military presence in Iraq, some civilians and contractors wore uniforms.

One of the senior Sadr officials, reached by telephone in Najaf, the Shia holy city that is one of Sadr’s bases, said the soldier had been captured in June 2011 by the Promised Day Brigade, an offshoot of Sadr’s Mehdi army militia.

“Moqtada al-Sadr gave his orders to release him as a goodwill gesture, saying we have no disputes with the American people,” said the official, who requested anonymity. “He ordered him handed over to the United Nations, not the US embassy.”

Nine years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the United States withdrew its forces from Iraq in December, with the exception of a few hundred service members stationed as part of the diplomatic mission at its embassy.

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