Abducted Iraqi-American Heads Back to the U.S.

An Iraqi-American kidnapped while working as a linguist for U.S. troops is scheduled to return to the United States late Tuesday.

Army South spokeswoman Arwen Consaul said 60-year-old Issa Salomi is on a flight from Qatar, where he got initial medical checkups. Salomi is expected to arrive in San Antonio for screenings as part of a voluntary reintegration program, according to Consaul.

Salomi will reunite with his family at either Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio or in San Diego, where his wife lives.

He was snatched in late January. A Shiite extremist group claimed responsibility, demanding the release of militants and withdrawal of U.S. troops. The group issued a statement saying that Salomi's release came after the Iraqi government released four of its members.

The contractor's wife, Muna Salomi, said earlier this week that she could not cannot express how excited she was to learn that her husband was on his way home.

The 60-year old El Cajon man was abducted on Jan. 23 in Baghdad, Iraq.

“I am so happy to hear that he is safe and alive and thank God for everything,” said Muna Salomi at mass at the Santa Sophia Catholic Church in Spring Valley on Sunday.

She credits her faith for keeping her strong while she waited for word about her husband of 31 years.

“I was worried, I thought I may never see him again in my life,” she said.

By phone, Issa Salomi told his family the power of prayer and love for them kept him strong.

“That kept him going knowing we were here and that was his goal, ‘I am going to get through this and go back home,’” said Tilley.

An American citizen, Issa Salomi grew up in Iraq before fleeing the country in 1991. He returned to Baghdad in 1997 - this time working for the U-S Army.

When he disappeared in January, he was declared "Excused Absence Whereabouts Unknown."

A Pentagon statement Saturday said only that Salomi was back under military control, but gave no details on his disappearance or return. The statement said the circumstances of the case are under investigation.

The same group that claimed responsibility for Salomi's abduction was believed to be behind the kidnapping of British computer consultant Peter Moore in May 2007 along with his four British bodyguards. Moore was handed over to Iraqi authorities in late December. Three of the bodyguards were killed and the fourth is believed dead.

It was unclear after Salomi's disappearance whether he was taken as part of a terrorist scheme. A U.S. intelligence official at the time said initial investigations indicated he was abducted by criminals for revenge or money.

When he returns home to San Diego, his family says they plan on throwing him a huge party.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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