Iraq's hostages subject to abuse, freed French say


PARIS -- Former French hostages who returned from Iraq after their liberation by President Saddam Hussein reported yesterday that U.S. and other captives still held at strategic sites in Iraq had been subjected to physical and mental abuse.

Many of the freed French hostages, including the first large group of so-called human shields released since the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, said some Americans in confinement at military bases, weapons factories and other strategic sites scattered around Iraq and Kuwait were seriously injured and in failing health. They are being held as insurance against attack by the multinational forces arrayed against Iraq.

"There is an American who is in terrible condition at a military base," reported Yann Rivoallan, 34, a French maintenance contractor kept for three months at strategic sites in Iraq and Kuwait.

"He has a fractured arm that is highly infected, and his state of health is extremely serious. He could die very soon."

Another French human shield, Patrick Moniette, said the hostages at the strategic locations were sometimes fed only a bowl of watered-down chicken broth and one hard piece of bread a day. He said the hostages sometimes lived in offices that had been converted into dormitories and were allowed outside only 1 1/2 hours each day.

The French accounts, in which the U.S. and British captives are depicted as suffering the harshest treatment, paint the bleakest picture yet of life as a hostage in Iraq.

[A Dallas man was reported to have escaped from Kuwait with the aid of Kuwaitis who had kept him hidden from Iraqi troops, the Dallas Morning News said. Manfred Hoffman, vice president of a Kuwaiti trading firm, escaped Friday, said his wife, Barbara Hoffman. He emerged in France after a secretive journey from the Middle East and called his family Monday night, the News said.]

The returning hostages reported that Americans and British were singled out for particular abuse. Unlike other hostages, they said, the Americans and British were not allowed to receive mail or make telephone calls.

"Everything was done to degrade and lower the people to the level of an animal, especially the Americans and the English," said Mr. Rivoallan.

"The Iraqis especially disliked the Americans. For them, they were Satan."

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