Shiite militia to release American held for nine months
BAGHDAD -- Wearing an Army uniform and flanked by Iraqi lawmakers, an American citizen announced on Saturday that he was being released from more than nine months of imprisonment by a Shiite militia that for years targeted U.S. troops.
The man did not identify himself. But at a bizarre news conference outside the Green Zone in Baghdad, lawmakers showed U.S.-issued military and contractor ID cards that identified him as Randy Michael Hultz.
He spoke calmly but gave scant details of what he described as a "kidnapping," or how he was treated while captured.
"I was taken inside Baghdad and kept in and around different locations within the city," he said. The kidnappers, he said, were from the Promised Day Brigade, a branch of the Mahdi Army, which is a militia that is controlled by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters controlled swaths of Baghdad and southern Iraq until they were largely defeated by Iraqi and U.S. troops in 2008. Sadr disbanded most of the Mahdi Army and joined mainstream politics, but militias continued to battle U.S. forces.
Of his release, Hultz said: "It was explained to me that this is a gift to me, my family and to the American people."
He said he deployed to Iraq early in the war as an active-duty soldier but left the military after 15 months. At that point, he said, he worked in a "civilian capacity" until his kidnapping on June 18, 2011.
He did not wear patches on his uniform that would identify his rank or what unit he may have served with.
He was taken into the Green Zone and turned over to the United Nations mission after the news conference by Sadrist lawmakers Qusay al-Suhail, the deputy speaker of Iraq's parliament, and Maha al-Douri.