Private Contractors Abducted In Iraq Still Missing One Year Later

Saturday, November 17th 2007, 3:16 pm
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (AP) -- Families of four American security guards working in Iraq had expected them home in time for last Thanksgiving. But a year after the men were abducted by suspected militiamen, the families are still waiting.

"We just need our father. We miss him so much," Casey Reuben, 16-year-old daughter of Paul Reuben, said Saturday at a benefit breakfast in the Minneapolis suburb where he once worked as a police officer. Families of some of the men held benefits or prayer services this weekend to mark the first anniversary of their disappearances, airing concerns that the U.S. government has stayed too quiet about efforts to free them -- and considering alternate ways to secure their release.

"They don't tell us anything," said Sharon DeBrabander of Kansas City, Missouri, mother of John Young. "I've been praying and praying, hoping something would have broke by now but it just hasn't."

Reuben and Young -- along with Jon Cote of Buffalo, New York; Josh Munns of Redding, California; and Bert Nussbaumer of Austria – worked in Iraq for Crescent Security Group, a Kuwait-based private security firm. They were kidnapped Nov. 16, 2006, by men in Iraqi police uniforms who ambushed a convoy they were escorting near the southern border city of Safwan.

The last indication that the men were alive came in January, in a video recording showing all five speaking briefly and saying they were being treated well. Since then, State Department officials
have indicated they believe the men are still alive, DeBrabander and other family members said.

A State Department spokesman said Saturday that efforts continue to free the men, but he would provide no further information.

"There are a number of people held hostage in Iraq, including many Iraqis and a number of Americans," said the spokesman, Kurtis Cooper. "We work closely with Iraqi authorities and others to bring about their safe returns."

The families get updates from the State Department in a weekly conference call, though several participants said there's been little new information for months. "Everything we ask about, they
tell us it's secret and confidential," said Francis Cote, father of Jon Cote.

The U.S. military reportedly stripped Crescent Security of its license to operate in Iraq in March over alleged weapons violations. Calls placed Friday and Saturday to a Crescent Security telephone number in Kuwait were not answered.

Several family members said the goal of this weekend's fundraisers was to pay for someone to go to Iraq and work to obtain the release of the men. Cote said they've spoken with several individuals who think they could do the job.

The FBI has tried to discourage any such action, said Paul McCabe, a spokesman for the bureau's office in Minneapolis.

"The FBI is sympathetic to the terrible strain on the families of the missing men," McCabe said. "The FBI along with the State Department, the military and Iraqi authorities continue to press forward in a coordinated effort to bring these men home."

That's little comfort to Casey Reuben and her twin sister, Bree, who waited tables Saturday at the restaurant where their family held a pancake breakfast to raise money.

Bree Reuben recalled the last time she and her sister spoke by phone to their father was about a week before he was abducted.

"He said he was scared and he wanted to come home," Bree Reuben said. "He was talking about being with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas. He said he loved us with all his heart, and he said he'd be safe."