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American tells of ordeal in Iraq

Published Oct. 12, 2005

An American bomb-disposal expert, free in Kuwait after Iraqi police seized him in a border dispute, blinked back tears on Sunday as he described a terrifying ordeal, but said he was not harmed.

Chad Hall, released Saturday after two days in Iraq, said his hopes for a quick and peaceful resolution of the conflict withered as he was led away at gunpoint, then taken to Baghdad and issued a prison uniform.

Hall's seizure Thursday afternoon in a disputed section of the Iraq-Kuwait border had raised tensions ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November. There had been speculation that Baghdad was trying to provoke President Bush, who is trailing in the polls to Democrat Bill Clinton, but Iraq blamed the incident on "confusion" along the unmarked frontier.

The United Nations took custody of Hall in Baghdad on Saturday and flew him to their border headquarters at Um Qasr for a medical examination Sunday before flying him to Kuwait.

Pale and weary, Hall described how an Iraqi colonel had threatened to shoot him at the border and security forces in Baghdad had interrogated him about his family.

Still, he said, he was not mistreated. "I am probably the only guy in captivity who gained weight," quipped the 50-year-old Hall, who carries about 220 pounds on a 6-foot-1-inch frame.

Two Britons and three Swedes arrested in the disputed zone over the past three months all were sentenced to seven years in prison for illegally entering the country.

Hall said he saw no other prisoners while in captivity.