Iraqi interpreter Hanun reunited with family

12th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

BAGHDAD, June 12 (AFP) - Iraqi interpreter Hussein Hanun, kidnapped five months ago with French journalist Florence Aubenas, was reunited with his family in Baghdad Sunday, greeted by ululating women and neighbours throwing candy.

BAGHDAD, June 12 (AFP) - Iraqi interpreter Hussein Hanun, kidnapped five months ago with French journalist Florence Aubenas, was reunited with his family in Baghdad Sunday, greeted by ululating women and neighbours throwing candy.  

Hanun's wife Suha screamed and collapsed as her thin and haggard husband arrived at their home in a lower-middle-class neighbourhood of north Baghdad after being freed along with Aubenas.  

On his return, Suha kissed his feet as he stepped in the blood of a freshly slaughtered sheep. They held each other in a long embrace before he was led inside the house.  

"I've lived through the worst days of my life," she told AFP, before he arrived accompanied by officials from the French embassy and two sports utility vehicles carrying guards.  

The couple have three girls and a two-year-old boy, Hamudi, who kept repeating: "Daddy's coming home."  

In a traditional greeting, neighbours threw candy at the former hostage, whose head was shaven and who appeared to have lost a lot of weight.  

Hanun, 45, stepped out of an embassy car wearing a white traditional robe and black leather slippers.  

His daughter Moja, 11, was first to rush towards him clutching his waist as she sobbed and repeated: "Daddy, Daddy!"  

Hanun's sister-in-law Sarab, 30, kissed his head, tears streaming down her cheeks.   Amid the clamour of well-wishers and photographers, the family squeezed into their tiny living room accompanied by the two embassy officials and a guard while two more armed guards stood watch outside.  

Inside, Hanun was surrounded on a brown sofa by his wife and children. The officials sat across from them and said little as they were profusely thanked by the family.   

Hanun smiled nervously, kept rubbing his hands and called for his son Mahmud, who appeared not to recognise his father because of the weight he had lost while in captivity.  

"I thank the French government, president, prime minister, foreign minister and the French people. I am really out of words to thank them all for their support," said Hanun's father-in-law Maan Araim.  

"As for the Iraqi government, it did nothing, as if he's not an Iraqi citizen. Well, what can I say? It's over now, that's the most important."  

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

Suha said she had received a lot of support from the embassy and Serge July, co-founder and director of Aubenas's paper Liberation.   

She also thanked the paper's veteran war reporter Didier Francois, who had visited the family with the newspaper's director in March.  

The last time she had spoken to her husband was on January 5, the day he went missing with Aubenas, she said.  

"His last words to me were 'I am fine darling' when I asked him how he was doing."  

Asked if they would leave Iraq after her husband's ordeal, she replied: "I will not say anything without taking his advice."  

Hours after reuniting with his family, Hanun was still receiving well-wishers at his home.   Before becoming a fixer for French television and print journalists travelling to Iraq, Hanun, who hails from the powerful Al-Saadi tribe, was a pilot in the air force under Saddam Hussein's regime.  

He trained in France in the early 1980s at the height of cooperation between Saddam and Paris.  

Soon after coming back to his homeland, he fought for four years in the Iraq-Iran war flying his Mirage F1 and receiving three medals for bravery.

He was decommissioned at the start of the 1991 Gulf war, when he began working with French reporters.

 

© AFP

Subject: French News

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