Iraqi who helped rescue POW finds home in U.S.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Iraqi lawyer who risked his safety to help U.S. forces rescue prisoner of war Jessica Lynch will forge a new life in the United States.

Mohammed al-Rehaief, his wife and their 5-year-old daughter plan to settle in the Washington area after the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services granted the family asylum Monday, officials said.

''Mr. al-Rehaief should know Americans are grateful for his bravery and for his compassion,'' Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said in remarks at the National Press Club in Washington.

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Pfc. Lynch, a 20-year-old Army supply clerk from Palestine, W.Va., was captured March 23 after her 507th Maintenance Company convoy was ambushed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. She was rescued from an Iraqi hospital in the city on April 1 after al-Rehaief mapped out her location for U.S. Marines over several days.

Al-Rehaief and his family arrived in the Washington area April 10 after the immigration bureau granted them ''humanitarian parole.'' While the procedure is not common, bureau spokesman Bill Strassberger said it can be awarded for any urgent humanitarian reason. It is most often used for foreigners in need of emergency medical treatment.

Ridge said the 33-year-old lawyer put his life and the lives of his family at risk by telling U.S. forces of Lynch's whereabouts. ''That was a humanitarian impulse,'' he said.

Al-Rehaief told reporters he was moved to action after he looked through a hospital window and saw Lynch being slapped by an Iraqi security agent. His wife, a nurse at the hospital, also helped provide critical information that led to the successful rescue.

Doctors say Lynch suffered a head wound, a spinal injury and fractures to her right arm, both legs and her right foot and ankle, though it is still unclear how her injuries occurred. She is being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

After Lynch was rescued, al-Rehaief and his family stayed at a refugee camp in Iraq until U.S. officials worked out a way for him to come to the United States, Strassberger said.