MALDEN, W.Va. – First, they have to find him. But when they do, residents of this small town want to thank the Iraqi man who helped save POW Jessica Lynch by bringing him to West Virginia.
The man, a lawyer known only as Mohammed, reportedly led U.S. troops to the hospital where Lynch was being held. The 19-year-old Army private was rescued last week and is recovering at a military hospital in Germany. Mohammed's role hasn't been confirmed by the military.
The effort to track down the man is being led by James Thibeault, who has founded Friends of Mohammad. The organization will be based in Lynch's hometown of Palestine, which is about 70 miles northwest of Malden, a Charleston suburb.
"There's a wonderful spiritual connection there for the Muslim people," said Thibeault, who hopes a Lynch family member will sit on the group's board.
Lynch's father said last week that that if he ever meets the lawyer, "he would get a world of hugs out of that heroic deal."
"I am truly grateful," Greg Lynch told NBC's Today show. "I realize he risked his own life to do this. The man is an angel and a god in his own ways."
Thibeault and about 10 residents met Wednesday with Imam Jamal Dauodi, spiritual leader of the Islamic Association of West Virginia, to discuss raising money to bring Mohammed here and other details.
Daoudi said it was no coincidence that a man named after Islam's prophet Mohammed saved an American woman from a town called Palestine.
"It is the will of God," he said.
Local veterans are interested in donating money for Mohammed's trip, said Betty Gainer, vice president of the Malden chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association.
"I know these vets," Gainer said. "They've been following the story of Jessica Lynch hour by hour."
Mike Jarrett, who has a son on active duty, said he feels a personal connection to Mohammed and Lynch.
"I think first of all it takes a lot of courage to do what he did," he said. "As a parent you just can relate to what this person did for Jessica."