BAGHDAD — U.S. authorities have recovered the remains of two American contractors who were kidnapped separately in predominantly Shiite Muslim southern Iraq more than a year ago, the FBI announced Monday. They were Ronald J. Withrow, a computer specialist from Roaring Springs, Texas, and John Roy Young, a security contractor from Kansas City, Mo.
There was no word about the fate of four other Western hostages thought to be held by the same militant group.
Earlier this month, U.S. officials confirmed that five severed fingers delivered to authorities in Baghdad belonged to Withrow, three other American hostages and an Austrian. Of the six hostages, Young was the only one whose finger hadn't been sent.
Grieving families of the hostages said they feared the worst after receiving news of the mutilations.
"When they said 'five fingers,' I said 'five bodies,' " Sharon DeBrabander, Young's mother, said from her home in Kansas City, Mo. "It's heartbreaking for them to keep the boys this long and then do this."
Withrow worked for JPI Worldwide, a Las Vegas-based company that provides Internet service in conflict zones. He was kidnapped at a phony checkpoint near the Iraqi port city of Basra on Jan. 5, 2007. The bodies of his Iraqi translator and driver were discovered the next day.
Young worked for the Kuwait-based Crescent Security firm when a convoy he led was ambushed on Nov. 16, 2006, near the southern Iraqi border town of Safwan. He was seized along with four of his co-workers, all of whom are still missing: Jonathon Cote of Gainesville; Joshua Munns of Redding, Calif.; Paul Johnson Reuben of Buffalo, Minn.; and Bert Nussbaumer of Vienna, Austria.
Speaking in a pained and weak voice, DeBrabander said the FBI told her that the bodies of Young and Withrow had arrived in the United States and would undergo examination before being released. She said she planned to fly to Minneapolis on Wednesday for a meeting with the families of the other abducted contractors.
Relatives of the hostages who are still missing extended sympathy to the families of Young and Withrow on Monday. They also awaited news of their own missing sons, brothers and husbands, fearing the same gruesome culmination.
No financial demand has been made public, and it's unclear what group is behind the hostage-taking.