BEIRUT, Lebanon – Two former Lebanese hostages returned home from Iraq, and their employer said a U.S. bombing that wounded both men, killed their Iraqi driver and their kidnappers had allowed them to escape.
Charbel Karam Haj and Aram Nalbandian, who work for a travel agency, were kidnapped Sept. 18 along with their driver, Ahmed Mirza, as they drove on a highway between Baghdad and the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah (search), 40 miles to the west.
The kidnappers and Mirza were killed Wednesday when U.S. forces bombed the building in Fallujah where the three were being held, Fadi Yassin, the travey agency's owner, said at Beirut's airport after flying back from Baghdad with Haj and Nalbandian.
"Haj and Nalbandian were removed from under the rubble by some Fallujah mujahedeen (search) (holy warriors)," Yassin said.
He said Haj suffered a fractured hip and Nalbandian had a broken ankle. They were taken to the American University Hospital.
Nalbandian said he and Haj did not expect to make it out alive.
"We were expecting death every minute," he said.
Haj, who said he was in great pain, refused to speak with journalists.
Nalbandian said the men were treated poorly shortly after the kidnapping, "but things improved later." He said the captors told them that British hostage Kenneth Bigley (search) was being held captive in the same building, but they never saw him.
Bigley and two Americans captured with him were beheaded; the Tawhid and Jihad group, led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility.
Insurgents in Iraq have kidnapped more than 150 foreigners in their campaign to drive out coalition forces and hamper reconstruction efforts. Most have been kidnapped for ransom and freed unharmed, but at least 30 have been killed.