Kidnapped Army linguist returns home

SAN DIEGO – A U.S. Army linguist returned to his family in Southern California on Saturday after more than two months in captivity in Baghdad, according to a National Guard spokeswoman.

Issa Salomi arrived home in San Diego and was “resting and beginning his adjustment back to normal life,” Maj. Kimberly Holman said in an e-mailed statement.

Salomi, 60, arrived in Texas on Tuesday for medical tests and debriefings with Army officials at Fort Sam Houston.

Salomi has not made a public appearance since the Pentagon announced his release March 27, but issued a statement saying he was “safe, healthy and unharmed.” He said it was one of the most satisfying moments of his life when his plane touched down on U.S. soil in San Antonio.

A Shiite extremist group claimed responsibility for the Jan. 23 kidnapping and posted a video online that showed a man wearing military fatigues, reading a list of demands for the release of militants, the prosecution of Blackwater guards and an immediate U.S. troop withdrawal.

The group issued a statement indicating Salomi’s release came in exchange for the release by the Iraqi government of four of its members.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq, known in English as the League of the Righteous, said the four were freed “in response to our demands following the capture of the American officer” – a reference to Salomi, who was not identified by name.

But Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said he had no information about anyone being released in exchange for Salomi.

Salomi was raised in Baghdad as the youngest of four children and studied civil engineering in England.

Salomi became a U.S. citizen and returned to Iraq in 2007 to work as a linguist for American troops, the Army says.