Aubenas interpreter recounts kidnap ordeal

15th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

BAGHDAD, June 15 (AFP) - The Iraqi interpreter held captive for five months by Islamist militants with French journalist Florence Aubenas said he had no contact with his fellow hostage during their ordeal.

BAGHDAD, June 15 (AFP) - The Iraqi interpreter held captive for five months by Islamist militants with French journalist Florence Aubenas said he had no contact with his fellow hostage during their ordeal.  

"I was held in the same place as Florence but I could not see her because we were blindfolded. We didn't speak," Hussein Hanun told AFP in an interview after his emotional homecoming in Baghdad following his release.  

"I didn't know how they were treating her because they spoke to her very softly," said Hanun, once an air force fighter pilot under the regime of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.  

Thin and finding it hard to concentrate, the 45-yer-old Hanun spoke with a husky voice that rasped in his inflamed throat as he told of how he missed his family and his euphoria at being freed.  

But he was reluctant to give a full account of his 157-day ordeal, saying only that he was "properly treated." Of his captors he would only say: "They were Islamists."  

Back in France, Aubenas said she shared her captivity with another hostage she was not allowed to speak with, and only found out days before her release that it was Hanun.  

Asked about three Romanian reporters who claimed to have been held with her before their own release last month, Aubenas said: "The situation is delicate.... I can't speak about the Romanians."  

Hanun made no mention of the Romanians in his interview with AFP.  

The father of four was reunited with his family on Sunday, a day after his release, in a chaotic celebration marked with joy, tears, candy and the blood of a freshly-slaughtered sheep.  

"What hurt most was being separated from my wife and children," he said. "I am really happy to be back among those I love, My family never left my mind."  

"I was thinking about my children and my wife all the time, especially since I could imagine her anguish and know how she suffers from high blood pressure."  

"I was really anxious despite being treated properly by those I was with," Hanun added.  

"They regularly gave me news of my family and when I tried to know more they said 'don't worry, we are taking care of them'." They also insisted Hanun was their guest.  

"They told me, you will get out of here and get back with your family, we have nothing against you and we are good Muslims who respect human feelings," the former hostage said.  

"When I began to pray they were pleased and when I fasted they asked me which dish I wanted to end the fast with," added Hanun.  

The hostages' plight attracted intense public interest in France, the latest in a series of countries to be hit by a wave of abductions of foreign nationals launched by Islamic militant groups in April last year.  

Speaking of his liberation, Hanun said: "One morning, they came and told me 'you are going back to your loved ones' and I was mad with joy.  

"They filmed us, saying 'you will see these images and hear your statements on television this evening surrounded by those dearest to you'.  

"I could hardly believe it, and thank God the dream came true. That said, I still have not seen the images on television."  

No video of the liberation of Florence and Hussein has been obtained or broadcast by television stations, which in the past have shown images of groups freeing their hostages or announcing their kidnapping or even their execution in Iraq.  

Before becoming a fixer for French television and print journalists in Iraq, Hanun, who hails from the powerful Al-Saadi tribe, was a pilot in the air force after training in France in the early 1980s.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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