An Iraqi militia linked to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr released a former US soldier today after keeping him prisoner for nine months, Reuters reports. Identified as Randy Michaels, the American appeared on television in a US military uniform without insignia, alongside two lawmakers from al-Sadr's movement. Speaking briefly to reporters, Michaels said he began his Iraq deployment in 2003 and stayed on after serving for 15 months.
He stayed in Iraq "in a civilian capacity from then until June of 2011, when I was taken hostage by elements of Yom al-Maoud," he said, referring to a branch of al-Sadr's army called the Promised Day Brigade. Michaels said his captors told him that his "release has been for humanitarian purposes and there was no exchange involved." A speaker in Iraq's parliament said the militia released Michaels because the US had withdrawn its forces from Iraq.