- MARINE COMBAT HEADQUARTERS,
Iraq - The Iraqi man who tipped U.S. Marines to the location of American
POW Jessica Lynch said Thursday he did so after he saw her Iraqi captor
slap her twice as she lay wounded in a hospital.
- "A person, no matter his nationality, is a human
being," the tipster, a 32-year-old lawyer whose wife was a nurse at
the hospital, said in an interview at Marines' headquarters, where he,
his wife and daughter are being treated as heroes and guests of honor.
- "He is an extremely courageous man who should serve
as an inspiration to all of us to do the right thing," said Lt. Col.
Rick Long, spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.
- After he saw Lynch slapped, the lawyer slipped into her
room at the Saddam Hospital in Nasiriyah and told her, "Don't worry."
Then he walked six miles to the nearest U.S. Marines and told them where
- He later returned to the hospital, at the request of
U.S. commanders, to map the facility and count how many Saddam Hussein
loyalists were there.
- A U.S. commando force whose name remains secret rescued
Lynch early Wednesday local time. She was taken Thursday to Germany for
treatment of injuries she suffered when she was captured.
- The lawyer, whose first name is Mohammed and who asked
that his last name not be published, smiled between every sentence as he
recounted in broken but expressive English how he helped the Americans.
He learned English at Basra University.
- Wearing Marine hand-me-downs after fleeing with only
the clothes on their backs, Mohammed, his wife Iman, 32, a nurse at Saddam
Hospital, and 6-year-old daughter Abir, seemed surprisingly cheerful for
a family on the run.
- Grateful Leathernecks showered them with Marine unit
patches, a commemorative coin and an American flag on their way to a refugee
center near the port of Umm Qsar, where they hope to ride out the war.
- "I love America. I like America. Why, I don't know,"
Mohammed said as he recounted the critical role he played in Lynch's rescue.
- Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has long repressed Iraq's
people with such a brutal grip that even with American troops at the gates
to Baghdad many refuse to rise up against him out of fear that he will
outlast the Americans.
- But Mohammed's tale is one of a man who didn't like what
he saw when he walked into the Saddam Hospital last Friday to visit his
wife and was told by a doctor friend that an American woman POW was in
the emergency ward.
- The friend walked him to the ground-floor ward, taken
over by the feared Saddam Fedayeen at the start of the war, and past a
window where he saw Lynch, an Army private first class captured after her
convoy became lost near Nasiriyah in the opening days of the war.
- Her head was bandaged, her right arm was in a sling over
a white blanket and she had what Mohammed thought was a gunshot wound to
a leg. But her real problem then was the black-uniformed Fedayeen commander
who everyone addressed as "colonel."
- The man slapped her, Mohammed said. "One, two,"
he added, making single slapping and back slap motions with his right hand.
She was very brave, he recalled.
- "My heart cut," Mohammed added, meaning stopped,
putting his hand over his chest and grimacing. "There, I have decided
to go to Americans to give them important information about the woman prisoner."
- He walked into her room with his doctor friend. "I
said 'Good morning.' She thought I was a doctor. I say, 'Don't worry.'
She smiled," he recalled.
- Doctors treating Lynch wanted to amputate her leg, Mohammed
said, but his doctor friend persuaded them not to. His friend, he said,
"hates Saddam Hussein and hates security of Saddam Hussein."
- Mohammed said he told his wife to take their daughter
to his father's house for safety, and then set off on foot to find the
American troops he had heard were occupying the edges of Nasiriyah.
- "This was very dangerous for me because American
soldiers shoot," he said, throwing up his hands in the air to show
how he carefully approached what turned out to be the U.S. Marines.
- He told them about the woman prisoner, and about a U.S.
military uniform he had also seen, presumably of a U.S. soldier killed
in the fighting in and around Nasiriyah, some of the heaviest of the war.
- They asked him to return to the six-story, 234-bed hospital
to gather information on its layout, its hallways, stairways and doors,
its basement and whether a helicopter could land on its roof.
- He walked back, with no taxis in sight, even as U.S.
jets bombed parts of the city of more than 500,000 people. "Boom,
boom. I walked under bombs. Fire, Fire," Mohammed recalled.
- He did the same thing the next day to report back to
- There were 41 Fedayeen based at the hospital, with four
guarding Lynch's room in civilian clothes but armed with AK-47 assault
rifles and carrying radios.
- "I drew them a map. I drew them five maps,"
he said, plainly relishing his cloak-and-dagger missions into the heart
of Saddam's terror network.
- Fedayeen raided his house the next day, he said, taking
away all his possessions and even his car, a Russian-made Muscovitch Brazilia
680. He said a neighbor was shot and her body dragged through the streets
just for waving at a U.S. helicopter.
- "Very bad people," he said. "There is
no kindness in my heart for them."
- He got his family out of Nasiriyah on Tuesday night,
hours before a task force of U.S. commandos rescued Lynch in a raid so
noteworthy that the U.S. Central Command in Qatar called a 4:30 a.m. news
conference to announce it.
- Four American journalists who have had regular access
to the Marines' combat operations center in southern Iraq were asked to
stay away from the COC as the rescue operation was getting underway.
- Mohammed and his family are now officially "temporary
- After showers, Mohammed put on an oversized green Marine
pullover, his wife put on one of the gray T-shirts that MTV donated to
the Leathernecks and his daughter was covered to her knees in a green T-shirt
from a Marine chemical warfare unit.
- But Mohammed did not appear despondent, as his wife smiled
and stayed shyly in the background and daughter Abir played with a neon-green
illumination stick given to her by a Marine.
- "I am very happy," he said, adding that his
wife wants to work in a hospital helping Americans and that he is eager
to help the Marines any way he can until he can return home to Nasiriyah
and resume his normal life.
- "In future, when Saddam Hussein down, I will go
back to Nasiriyah because my house and office are there," he said.
As for the Fedayeen, he said, "when Saddam Hussein down, I sure they
- "Believe me, not only I, all the people of Iraq,
not the people in the government, like Americans," Mohammed said.
"They want to help the Americans, but they are all afraid."