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Former Pakistani Hostage Returns Home from Iraq - 2004-07-09


A Pakistani man, taken hostage in Iraq and later freed, is now back home. He tells VOA that he witnessed his captors killing other hostages, and was only spared because he is a Muslim.

Amjad Hafeez was working for a U.S. company supplying food and other goods to the coalition military in Iraq, when he was ambushed and taken hostage on June 27.

In an interview with VOA upon his return to Pakistan Friday, Mr. Hafeez, who speaks several Pakistani languages and some English, said he had difficulty communicating with his captors, because he speaks little Arabic.

He says the militants holding him accused him of being a U.S. spy.

"First I told them, 'I am Pakistani.' They told me, 'No, you are not Pakistani. You are American security,'" Mr. Hafeez said.

The hostage-takers ordered Mr. Hafeez to make a videotaped message conveying their demand that Pakistan close its diplomatic mission in Baghdad.

Pakistan is a close ally of the United States, but says it will not send troops to Iraq, unless asked by both the United Nations and the Iraqi transitional government.

Following Mr. Hafeez's capture, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf appealed publicly for his release.

Mr. Hafeez says that during his six days in captivity, he saw the militants kill three other hostages. Their identities are not known.

Finally, he says, his captors threatened to behead him on camera.

"They told me, 'The cameraman is coming. ? After, I cut your neck.' I waited to die," he said.

He says that when he responded by asking to say his final prayers, the hostage-takers began to believe he was really a fellow Muslim.

Mr. Hafeez says they watched carefully as he performed the Muslim pre-prayer bodywashing ritual to make sure he was really a follower of Islam.

His captors were also reportedly swayed by a tearful appeal by Mr. Hafeez's mother.

Mr. Hafeez says he is angry with his former employers for not offering him any compensation over the incident.

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