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Freed aid worker: Kidnapping a 'nightmare'

Despite ordeal, he says he hopes to return to Iraq



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(CNN) -- A Syrian-born Canadian aid worker kidnapped and held for two weeks in Iraq said his first 48 hours as a hostage were "a nightmare" and still doesn't know why his captors released him.

Fadi Fadel, 33, was released April 16 and returned to Montreal last week to reunite with his family. He spoke with CNN on Sunday.

"During the first 48 hours, it was a nightmare for me," Fadel said. "There were a couple of times I thought I was going to die.

"I was trusting in God; I was praying a lot," he said.

Fadel, who works for the International Rescue Committee, managed a UNICEF-funded program that provides humanitarian assistance to vulnerable children and youths in southern Iraq.

He was kidnapped the first week in April by a group calling itself Ansar al-Din and taken to Najaf, where he was joined by another captive, Nabil Razzouk, a Palestinian Christian from East Jerusalem.

Razzouk, 30, who worked for North Carolina-based RTI International as part of the firm's local governance project in Najaf, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, was released Thursday.

Their captors initially thought both men were Israelis and that Fadel was working for the Mossad. In footage shown on Iranian TV, a masked man said the group had detained "prisoners from the occupation forces."

Fadel said he was getting ready for bed when men stormed the house, blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back. They drove him away after examining his Canadian passport.

In the days after his capture, Fadel said he was beaten and burned with cigarettes.

"They want me to confess that I'm an Israeli spy, that I collaborate with the coalition forces. And I kept on stressing the fact that I'm a humanitarian aid worker, I'm here to help the children," Fadel said.

His captors put him in front of a video camera, where he finally said he was a collaborator with Israel, but only because while making the admission, Fadel said, his captors aimed two Kalashnikov rifles at him.

Fadel said that despite his ordeal he wants to return to Iraq once security improves.

"Going to Iraq was a personal goal" because of his Arab heritage, Fadel said. He said he wants the country to achieve democracy.

"There is a need for humanitarian workers to go back," he said.

Fadel said aid workers were well-received by most Iraqis. He lamented the situation in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, where radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is holed up with his Mehdi Army militia and surrounded by coalition troops.

The U.S. military warned Sunday that a "dangerous situation" is developing in the city. (Full story)

"The situation is going from bad to worse," Fadel said.


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