Deadline passes with no word from group holding US hostage

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The Independent Online

The fate of an American civilian taken hostage in Iraq remains unknown after a deadline set by his captors for the US to withdraw from Fallujah passed.

The fate of an American civilian taken hostage in Iraq remains unknown after a deadline set by his captors for the US to withdraw from Fallujah passed.

Thomas Hamill, who works for Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of the construction and engineering firm Halliburton, was captured when a fuel convoy he was guarding came under fire.

A videotape sent by his captors to al-Jazeera demanded the withdrawal of US troops from Fallujah, stating: "If you don't respond within 12 hours ... he will be treated worse than those who were killed and burnt in Fallujah" ­ referring to the four Americans whose bodies were mutilated.

Mr Hamill's capture on Friday was discovered when an Australian cameraman came across a car containing him and his captors. Mr Hamill reportedly told the cameraman he was in a convoy that had been ambushed.

Then a tape delivered at the weekend to al-Jazeera showed a subdued Mr Hamill in front of an Iraqi flag, while a voiceover quoted him as saying: "I am in good shape. I hope to return home one day, and I want my family to know that these people are taking care of me, and provide me with food, water and somewhere for me to sleep."

Mr Hamill went to work in Iraq on a one-year contract after incurring debts from a failed dairy business. "With this job, he saw a way to help get us back on track," his wife, Kellie, told The Beacon newspaper in Macon, Mississippi. Mrs Hamill said: "I don't really know anything; we don't know anything ... Prayers are all we need." The couple have a son and daughter.

The Mayor of Macon, Dorothy Baker Hines, plans to have flags and ribbons put up around town. "We're going to do everything we can to support his family," said the mayor, who knows Mrs Hamill from her work as an emergency dispatcher, a job from which she is on leave while recovering from heart surgery.

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