Followers of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr freed an American former soldier on Saturday after holding him captive in Baghdad for nine months.
The American, identified as Randy Michaels, was shown on television in a U.S. military uniform with no insignia, flanked by two members of parliament from Sadr's movement, including the parliament's first deputy speaker.
The lawmakers described him as an American soldier, but Michaels said he was a former service member working in a civilian capacity at the time he was captured, last June.
He said he had been held by the Yom al-Maoud, or Promised Day Brigade, an offshoot of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia which remained armed after Sadr disbanded most Mehdi Army units in 2008.
"I was taken inside Baghdad and have been kept in and around different locations within the city by al-Maoud. It was explained to me that my release has been for humanitarian purposes and there was no exchange involved," he said in remarks shown on Iraq's Bagdadiya television.
The Pentagon has said none of its serving troops are believed to be held in Iraq since last month when it recovered the remains of the last missing soldier.
Maha al-Douri, a lawmaker from Sadr's bloc said: "We declare the release of the American soldier, Randy Michaels, without any compensation, according to the instructions of Moqtada al-Sadr, as a gift from him to the soldier's family and to his people, and to correct the image of Islam."
Qusay al-Souhail, deputy parliament speaker, said the leadership of the Promised Day Brigade had made the decision to free their captive in light of the confirmation that U.S. troops had withdrawn from Iraq.
The Sadr officials said Michaels had been turned over to the U.N. mission in Baghdad. A spokeswoman for the mission declined to comment. The U.S. embassy could not immediately be reached and U.S. officials in Washington were not immediately available for comment.
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.
The U.S. mission still includes 2,000 diplomats and, as of last year, 14,000 civilian contractors. The embassy says the number of contractors has declined since then but does not release updated figures.
In December, Podemos on the left and Ciudadanos in the center took numerous seats away from the 2 traditional parties
Suicide bomber detonated explosives outside hotel, say local reports
- City of Mosul will be retaken within a year from ISIL, Iraqi defense minister says
France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Italy all are home to influential political leaders calling for EU referendums
'I don't believe it is right that I should carry on as the British Commissioner as though nothing had happened,' says Jonathan Hill
The authorities of Central Asian Tajikistan say nearly 1,000 citizens have abandoned their homeland to join the ISIL fighter group.
Karim Wade, who was convicted by local court in 2013 for amassing illicit fortune, has been released from prison and flown to Qatar
Britain’s top official in the European Commission, Jonathon Hill, announced his resignation on Saturday in a sign of how the UK’s role within the EU institutions is dimininishing after the vote to leave.
Russian leader, counterpart witness inking of over 30 deals, sign statement vowing to enhance global strategic stability
1.5 million people have signed a petition calling for UK to hold 2nd EU referendum
The chain reaction from the UK vote to leave the EU has begun already with far-right parties calling for their own countries to leave the EU
Just one day after Mahmoud Abbas accused rabbi's of calling on the Israeli government to poison Palestinian water, he has retracted the charge saying it was "baseless" lie
Uzbekistan is the proud home to a spellbinding arsenal of architecture and ancient with magnificent cities boasting a beautiful mosaic of ancient history and a modern outlook
For Muslims, East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque represents world’s third holiest site
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steimeier has said that it was important to heed the expectation from people and that the EU must not fall into a depression