Last updated: 18 March, 2012

Freed American was in Iraq privately

An American freed from nine months of being held in captivity by a Shiite militia group was in Iraq on private business when he was kidnapped, the US embassy in Baghdad said on Sunday.

Randy Michael Hultz, snatched on June 18, 2011, was released by the movement loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr at a news conference a day earlier at which Hultz appeared wearing military uniform.

“The US embassy in Baghdad confirms that Randy Michael Hultz, an American citizen, was transferred to the embassy from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq on March 17,” embassy spokesman Michael McClellan said.

“Mr Hultz, a private citizen, is not an employee or contractor of the US government and was in Iraq on private business. Since his transfer to the embassy, Mr Hultz has been provided with all necessary consular services, including a medical check-up and debriefing.”

McClellan continued: “The consular section continues to assist Mr Hultz as he considers his plans.”

Hultz was transferred to the UN following Saturday’s news conference during which his release was hailed by Sadrists as a “humanitarian” gesture. He had been kidnapped on June 18, 2011 by the Promised Day Brigade, a Shiite militia close to the Sadrist movement.

Sadrist officials said Hultz, who they said was a former American soldier, took part in battles between the US army and Sadr’s now deactivated Mahdi Army militia in 2004.

Claims that he is a former soldier were not immediately confirmed by US officials.

The remains of the last American soldier unaccounted for from the war in Iraq were handed over last month.

American civilian contractors and interpreters often wore US military uniform or clothing approximating military fatigues while US forces were stationed in Iraq.

Washington withdrew its military forces from Iraq in December after leading the 2003 invasion that ousted now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

Just 157 soldiers remain under the charge of the US embassy, along with a marine detachment responsible for the mission’s security.