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Hamill: Abuse at Iraqi prison affected treatment

Captors asked him about reports from Abu Ghraib, he says


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Thomas Hamill answers questions about his ordeal.

Kellie Hamill, wife of U.S. contractor Thomas Hamill, talks with CNN's Bob Franken.
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MACON, Mississippi (CNN) -- Former hostage Thomas Hamill says photos of U.S. soldiers apparently abusing Iraqis held in a Baghdad prison affected the way he was treated in the days before he escaped.

He said he scaled back the celebration of his return home so he wouldn't anger captors of Americans still being held.

With yellow ribbons tied around trees, Hamill's hometown of Macon, Mississippi welcomed him back, just six days after he escaped from a farmhouse 50 miles north of Baghdad.

"I knew I was coming home some day," Hamill told reporters. "They were not going to keep this boy."

Hamill, 44, was driving a truck for Halliburton Corp. subsidiary KBR when his convoy was ambushed April 9.

Four other American contractors were found dead, and two are still missing from the convoy. One U.S. soldier was later found dead, and one soldier is still missing.

Hamill said he chose a low-key reception Saturday to avoid angering those who still hold his co-workers hostage.

"I didn't want to play this thing up like a big grand slam home run," Hamill said.

The prisoner abuse scandal -- with photos of U.S. soldiers apparently abusing Iraqis held in the Abu Ghraib prison -- emerged in his last week of captivity, and it caused his conditions to worsen, he said.

"That had an effect on me, captive the last few days," Hamill said. "I hate that happened. They asked me about it.

"My treatment had changed and I was afraid it was going to get a lot worse," he said. "They moved me numerous times during the ordeal."

Hamill said the focus should now "be on the people and the soldiers and civilians that are still over there in harm's way and that we can end this ordeal over there as quickly as possible."

"They're all heroes," he said. "Let's turn this hero's welcome back to them."

He said he hoped the lessons learned from his experience will help the U.S. military find and rescue the other hostages.

Hamill said he was determined to take whatever abuse he was dealt by his captors, keeping in mind how Americans survived years of captivity during the Vietnam War.

Prayer was the key to his survival, he said.

"I prayed daily, several times a day that my Lord was going to pick a time and a day and a place and I was going to stick with him until he opened that door," he said. "He opened that door on that Sunday morning and he let me out."

Hamill said though he is not sure what he will do next, he indicated he would not go back to Iraq because of the stress it would put on his children.

"I want them to be not worried about their father," he said.

Despite his experience, Hamill said he thinks the U.S. should complete its mission in Iraq.

"We need to form a democratic government over there," he said. "We need to get that country on its feet. And we need to take care of those people that are trying to stop it."


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