NEW YORK – Three security contractors including two Americans were released by Iraqi Army forces Tuesday after they were held for more than two weeks, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security announced as he demanded a full report on the episode.
Republican Peter King identified the men as Army veteran Alex Antiohos of West Babylon, N.Y., National Guardsman Jonas March of Savannah, Georgia and Kevin Fisher of Fiji.
King said they were working for a security firm when Iraqi Ministry of Defense officials rejected paperwork prepared on their behalf by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and began holding them on Dec. 9.
The men weren't charged with any crimes and King said it appeared that the men were not injured.
He said Antiohos, who lives on Long Island, spoke to his wife Tuesday evening, and he was expected to be home later this week.
"She said he seems to be doing well," he said.
King said they were released after efforts by his office, the State Department, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Defense Department and the White House.
He said he will demand answers from the Iraqis as well from U.S. authorities about how the incident was handled after they learned about the men.
"We're going to have thousands of contractors over there, including many Americans. Can the Iraqis just take them off the street and hold them? This is a terrible precedent. We have to get to the bottom of this," he said.
The New York congressman said he was concerned that U.S. military authorities had not been notified by the U.S. embassy that the men were being held and that embassy representatives had not visited the men when he learned about it from Antiohos' wife last week.
"We have to find out if there could have been better coordination between all the agencies to make sure something like this doesn't happen again," King said.
U.S. troops completed a full withdrawal this month after nearly nine years of war.
"This should be a bit of a wake-up call as to whether the situation really is deteriorating in Iraq," he added. "Iraq was supposed to be an ally. We liberated Iraq. Yet they hold these men for 18 days. ... It's inexcusable that they were treated this way by a supposed ally."