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In two nations, captives' kin wait

By Associated Press
Published April 12, 2004

Relatives of an American civilian taken hostage in Iraq waited to learn what had happened to him after a Sunday deadline imposed by his abductors passed.

Thomas Hamill, 43, was snatched Friday by gunmen who attacked a fuel convoy he was guarding, the latest in a string of kidnappings in Iraq.

"I'm just praying," his grandmother, Vera Hamill, said Sunday.

Meanwhile, Japan waited anxiously today for the release of three Japanese civilians taken hostage in Iraq as the government struggled to determine whether the gunmen holding them planned to set them free.

Hamill works for the Houston engineering and construction company Kellogg, Brown & Root, a division of Halliburton, his wife, Kellie, told the Associated Press.

His captors threatened to kill him unless U.S. troops ended their assault on Fallujah. The deadline passed Sunday morning with no word on Hamill.

Several hundred residents, many wearing yellow ribbons and scrawling notes of support for the family, gathered Sunday night for a vigil outside the Macon County Court House in Mississippi.

A Halliburton official left Hamill's house Sunday evening without commenting. Vera Hamill said Halliburton officials asked the family not to talk to the media, fearing they might say something that could jeopardize her grandson's safety.

At least one hostage was released Sunday and more were expected to be freed. Britain's Foreign Office said Gary Teeley, a British man who had reportedly been kidnapped in Nasiriyah, was safe and in the hands of coalition forces.

Al-Jazeera reported Sunday that kidnappers said they would release eight other foreign hostages: two Turks, three Pakistanis, a Nepalese, a Filipino and an Indian. Their captors claimed the men were truck drivers for the U.S.-led coalition.

In a video of the eight hostages, a spokesman for the kidnappers said they were being released. But it was unclear if the men were actually freed.

Japanese officials in Jordan said they were talking with unidentified people in Iraq to gain the Japanese hostages' release. A negotiator told the Japanese government that the three civilians were unharmed, held near Fallujah, Kyodo News reported, citing unidentified government sources.

Meanwhile, the Arab TV station Al-Arabiya reported that insurgents kidnapped seven Chinese north of Fallujah on Sunday evening, citing Chinese diplomatic sources. No further details were available.

[Last modified April 12, 2004, 01:05:27]

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