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Iraqi Militia Frees US Man After 9 Months in Captivity

A militia loyal to Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said Saturday it had freed a former U.S. soldier after holding him hostage for more than nine months, and handed him over to the United Nations mission in Iraq.

The American, identified as Randy Michael Hultz, was shown on Iraqi television along with two Iraqi lawmakers from al-Sadr's movement. One of the lawmakers, Maha al-Douri, said Hultz was released without any compensation. She called his release "a gift to his family" and "to show the picture of real Islam."

Hultz told a hastily convened news conference held outside the Green Zone in Baghdad he had deployed to Iraq in 2003 and served there as a soldier for 15 months. He said he remained in Iraq "in a civilian capacity" until his kidnapping in June of 2011 by elements of the Promised Day Brigade, a branch of the Mahdi Army controlled by the anti-American cleric.

Sadrist officials said Hultz was taken into the Green Zone immediately after the press conference and turned over to the U.N. mission which, in turn, transferred him to the U.S. embassy late Saturday.