U.S. Hostage Escapes To Safety

Tanker driver Thomas Hamill, an American civilian from Mississippi, seen at an early morning drivers' meeting, at Camp Anaconda, in Iraq is seen in this March 24, 2004 file photo. Civilian contractor Thomas Hamill's daring escape Sunday, May 2, 2004 after three weeks as a hostage in Iraq was ``the best wake-up call'' for his wife, and the mayor of this small town promised ``a parade that will not end'' when he returns home. (Photographer: Andrew Innerarity)
AP/Houston Chronicle
Kidnapped U.S. truck driver Thomas Hamill escaped his Iraqi captors Sunday.

Meanwhile, attacks on U.S. forces continue, with 11 U.S. service members killed. Separately, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asserted that mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners is not widespread, but added he has not yet read a classified military report documenting abuse in a Baghdad prison.

Hamill pried open a door of the house where he was held and ran half a mile to an American patrol passing by, officials and his wife said. He identified himself and led the soldiers to the house in Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, where two Iraqis with an automatic weapon were arrested, a military spokesman said.

The 43-year-old native of Macon, Mississippi, escaped more than three weeks after he was abducted by gunmen who blasted the convoy he was driving in the outskirts of Baghdad. An American soldier was abducted in the same attack — and remains missing — and at least four of Hamill's co-workers from a subsidiary of Halliburton were killed.

Hamill had not been heard from since the day after the April 9 attack, when his kidnappers released a video of him standing in front of an Iraqi flag and threatened to kill him within 12 hours unless the United States ended its siege of Fallujah.

Hamill's wife, Kellie, was called at 5:30 a.m. with the news of his escape, and later spoke to her husband. "He sounded wonderful, so wonderful. He said he was fine," she said. "He said he was more worried about his mom, his grandmother, me and our kids."

Deadly violence continued in all parts of Iraq:

  • A barrage of mortars hit a U.S. base near the city of Ramadi, 60 miles west of the capital, killing six service members and wounding 30.
  • An attack in Baghdad killed two other soldiers and wounded two Iraqi security officers and another American.
  • One U.S. soldier was killed and 10 were wounded when insurgents attacked a coalition base near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
  • Shiite militiamen attacked a U.S. convoy early Sunday near the southern city of Amarah, 180 miles south of Baghdad, killing two soldiers.
  • U.S. troops also exchanged gunfire Sunday near Najaf with militiamen loyal to radical Shiite preacher Muqtada al-Sadr. There were no U.S. casualties.
  • In the southern city of Basra, a mortar shell exploded late Sunday near the headquarters of the traffic police, killing one civilian. Minutes later, gunmen killed a policeman at a checkpoint.

    U.S. Marines continued to pull back from the siege of the city of Fallujah. A new Iraqi military force received control of a bridge from withdrawing troops, witnesses said.

    Marines have completely handed over the southern side of Fallujah to a force made up of former soldiers from Saddam Hussein's army and led by one his former generals. Marines remain on the northern side of the city, but U.S. commanders have said they will leave soon.

    Many Fallujah residents cheered the Marines pullback as a victory. Masked gunmen moved freely in the streets, waving their guns. Some even stood next to Iraqi policemen, witnesses said.

    There appeared to be a move among the Americans to remove the commander of the brigade, Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, a former member of Saddam's Republican Guards.

    Saleh has not been given command of an Iraqi force that entered Fallujah after Marines ended a three-week siege, says the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    General Richard Myers told CBS News' Face The Nation that news media were "very, very inaccurate" in their reporting about Saleh.

    Saleh strode into the city on Friday in his old army uniform and was recognized as the brigade commander by the head of the Marines in Iraq, Lt. Gen. James Conway.

    Myers said officials in Baghdad were checking into Saleh's background. "There are people that know his record, know what he's done in the previous Saddam Hussein regime," he said. "They're going to have to find an appropriate role, if a role at all, for him."

    In other developments:

  • A classified U.S. military report finds that reservist military police were urged by Army military officers and C.I.A. agents to "set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses" at the Abu Ghraib prison, the New Yorker magazine reports. The military report found a pattern of wide-ranging and gruesome abuse in late 2003, including the sexual assault of a detainee with a chemical light stick or broomstick, according to the New Yorker. A senior U.S. officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the New Yorker article is "very consistent in scope to what we've been saying."
  • Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says "categorically" that "there is no evidence of systematic abuse" in the U.S. detention operations in the region. "We review all the interrogation methods. Torture is not one of the methods that we're allowed to use and that we use," Myers said in a broadcast interview on Sunday. "I mean, it's just not permitted by international law, and we don't use it." He told CBS News' Face The Nation that he has not seen a three-month-old U.S. military report on the abuse because it is working its way up the chain of command. "I'll see this report. I'm sure it just hasn't come to me yet."
  • The Army Reserve general whose soldiers were photographed abusing Iraqi prisoners says she didn't know about the torture until after it occurred. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski tells the New York Times that military intelligence officers controlled the cellblock where the prisoners were held and encouraged or directed the abuse. She tells the Washington Post that a team of intelligence officers from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba arrived a month before the abuse started. Their mission was to teach new interrogation techniques, she says.
  • One of the soldiers accused of torture emailed his family about it last December, the Washington Post reports. In an email provided by the family of Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick, the soldier said he questioned some of the abuses. "I questioned this and the answer I got was: This is how military intelligence wants it done," the email says. "We have had a very high rate with our style of getting them to break," the email adds. "They usually end up breaking within hours."
  • Amnesty International says it has received "scores" of reports of ill treatment of detainees by British and American troops. British military police are investigating allegations of abuse by U.K. soldiers after the Daily Mirror newspaper published photos allegedly showing a hooded Iraqi prisoner who reportedly was beaten by British troops.
  • First lady Laura Bush says U.S. troops are the face of American compassion abroad. Bush made the remark at a central Florida rally attended by about 5,000 people. She was joined by her brother-in-law, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and the acting army secretary in thanking troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • U.S. officers acknowledge that during recent fighting in central Iraq, almost half of Iraq's security forces in battle areas walked off the job and 10 percent of them actually took up arms against U.S. soldiers.