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Former US soldier freed in Iraq

Randy Michael Hills, 59, captured last June.

Moqtada al-Sadr frees ex-soldierEnlarge
A supporter of Iraqi Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr shouts slogans while holding his picture near burning US flags in Baghdad on April 9, 2011. Sadr freed a former US soldier today on "humanitarian grounds." (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)

Anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s forces freed a former American soldier on humanitarian grounds today in Baghdad, saying Iraq has no quarrel with the US.

The man, whose name Iraq television said was Randy Michael Hills, is a 59-year-old former US Army sergeant captured last June, The Telegraph reported.

“I was taken hostage by elements of Yom al-Maoud (Promised Day Brigade) under the direction of Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr,” he said on Iraq television, according to The Telegraph.

“I was taken inside Baghdad and have been kept in and around different locations within the city by al-Maoud. It was explained to me that my release has been for humanitarian reasons and that there was no exchange involved.”

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He was taken to the United Nations mission in Iraq, not the US embassy.

“Moqtada al-Sadr gave his orders to release him as a goodwill gesture, saying we have no disputes with the American people," a Sadr representative told Reuters. "He ordered him handed over to the United Nations, not the U.S. embassy."

The Sadr official told Iraq TV that Hills fought Sadr’s disbanded Mahdi Army militia in 2004.

The US said it had no record of a missing American solider, and was investigating the matter, AFP said.

"UNAMI is currently in contact with the US embassy in Baghdad to follow up on the matter," a UN spokeswoman said, AFP reported.

The American military said it received remains of the final missing US solider in Iraq last month.

“We have heard the reports and we are attempting to verify the information,” a US embassy representative told AFP.

US troops left Iraq in December after a 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

There are less than 150 American military personnel working in Iraq at the embassy.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/120317/former-us-soldier-freed-iraq