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Utah Man Describes Being Kidnapped in Iraq

Utah Man Describes Being Kidnapped in Iraq



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Sam Penrod ReportingA Utah man is back home after being kidnapped January 27 while doing human rights work in Iraq. For nine days he pondered his life and future before his captors let him go. You may have read Will Van Wagenen's story the last couple of days in the Deseret Morning News. Now you will hear from him in his only television interview about his nine-day ordeal.

Will Van Wagenen is a 29-year-old Utah native. He's a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and became involved with Christian Peacemaker Teams, a very small human rights organization. He went to Iraq to try to prevent torture and other abuses of Iraqis.

Will Van Wagenen, Abducted in Iraq: "To try and contribute in a small way to doing human rights work, to prevent at least some violence happening to some people. Just wanted to try and contribute in a positive way to there being a little less suffering in that country."

Van Wagenen knew firsthand the dangers of being in Iraq, even doing humanitarian work. He worked alongside Christian Peacemaker Teams worker Tom Fox, who was abducted and later killed in Iraq in March of last year. But Van Wagenen went back several weeks ago to Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq, an area much safer than Baghdad. It was a decision he seriously began to question as time went on in captivity.

Will Van Wagenen, Abducted in Iraq: "I can't believe this has happened, and what could I have done differently so that I wasn't in this situation? You know ... just trying to come to grips with the fact you're in a very bad spot and there's a really good chance you might not make it out of it."

Overall, Van Wagenen says he was treated well by the kidnappers, who claimed they were from Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. He was never beaten or abused, but still the situation made him fearful.

Will Van Wagenen, Abducted in Iraq: "I said a lot of prayers, of course, and just tried to find ways to pass the time, whether it was reading or talking to the people with me, including the kidnapper."

Now that he is safely home Van Wagenen does not see himself ever going back to Iraq.

Will Van Wagenen, Abducted in Iraq: "For me personally to put my parents through that type of thing twice, that would not be a good idea. I'm happy to be here in Utah and to be home."

Van Wagenen told me the scariest time was as soon as the kidnapping happened. That's when gunmen took them off of the main road, and he feared they would be robbed and then shot. After nine days, his captors put him in his car's trunk and drove for several miles before stopping and letting him go.

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