-- Three American contractors who were reported missing in mid-January while working in Iraq have been freed and handed to United States diplomats, U.S. officials said today.
The United States citizens were reportedly kidnapped at an apartment building in southern Baghdad where their interpreter lived.
The Department of Defense "did not play a role in their recovery," said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook at a briefing this afternoon. "But we do want to thank the State Department and the government of Iraq for their role," he said. "But the Department of Defense did not have a role."
"The Department of State welcomes the news that the Government of Iraq has secured the release of three U.S. citizens who were reported as missing in January," Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement today.
"We sincerely appreciate the assistance provided by the Government of Iraq, and its whole-of-government effort to bring about the safe release of these individuals," Toner added. "Specifically, we express our gratitude to the Iraqi Security Forces, and in particular the Ministry of Defense and the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, for their role in achieving this outcome."
Although the three Americans were Department of Defense contractors, they were under the responsibility of the State Department. According to Cook, the three men will be flown "out of the region."