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Iraqi who helped rescue POW granted asylum

Ex-congressman's lobbying group offers him job

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U.S. troops attend to Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch after her rescue.

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CNN's Kelli Arena says Mohammed Odeh al Rehaief, his wife, and their 5-year-old daughter have been granted humanitarian parole. (April 29)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Iraqi lawyer who U.S. officials say took great risks to help with the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch has been granted asylum and offered a job in the United States, officials told CNN on Tuesday.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced Tuesday that Mohammed Odeh al Rehaief, his wife, and their 5-year-old daughter had been granted humanitarian parole the day before.

"I'm very heartened to tell you that the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services granted asylum yesterday to Mohammed al Rehaief, who provided critical information to our United States Marines, which led to the location and rescue of Private Jessica Lynch," Ridge said.

Ridge said the family was brought to America this month after the Department of Homeland Security allowed them into the country.

"Mr. al Rehaief should know that Americans are grateful for his bravery and for his compassion," Ridge said.

The family is staying in the Washington area, a government official said.

Also Tuesday, CNN learned that the Livingston Group -- a lobbying firm in Washington headed by former Rep. Bob Livingston, the longtime GOP lawmaker from Louisiana who resigned during the Clinton impeachment process after acknowledging an affair -- offered al Rehaief a job. It was unclear whether he accepted it, and the type of job was not known.

Al Rehaief and his family were brought to the United States at his request April 10 and processed through immigration Monday in Arlington, Virginia, officials said.

Officials said he was given work papers and everything he needs to allow him and his family to stay in the United States indefinitely. He may also petition to bring in other family members.

Although the government normally does not talk publicly about asylum cases, it is doing so in this case because Al Rehaief gave permission, officials said.

Lynch and five fellow members of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company were taken prisoner March 23 outside Nasiriya. She suffered wounds to her arm, foot, ankle, both legs, head and back in the ambush.

Acting on intelligence information, U.S. Special Forces led a team of Marines, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and airmen into enemy fire April 1 to rescue Lynch from the hospital.

Team members found the 19-year-old supply clerk in a hospital room lying in a bed, with a sheet over her head, said U.S. Central Command spokesman Gen. Victor Renuart.

The Marine Corps had previously said that an Iraqi lawyer, whom they would identify only as "Mohammed," helped them plan Lynch's rescue.

An article written by Sgt. Joseph R. Chenelly, posted on the Marines' Web site, said Mohammed was visiting his wife, a nurse at Saddam Hussein Hospital, when he noticed an increase in security at the hospital and asked one of the doctors what was going on. The doctor told him a female American soldier was there.

After the doctor showed Mohammed where Lynch was being held in the hospital, Mohammed said he saw an Iraqi colonel slap Lynch twice.

"My heart stopped," he said. "I knew then I must help her be saved. I decided I must go to tell the Americans."

That same day, Mohammed approached Marines at a checkpoint with his hands in the air and told them he had "important information about Jessica."

At the Marines' request, Mohammed returned to the hospital over the course of two days to gather more information about layout, security and shift changes, according to Chenelly's article. He and his wife made five maps showing Lynch's location.

-- CNN producer Terry Frieden and correspondent Kelli Arena contributed to this report.


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