DECEMBER 26, 2005
Posted: January 20, 2006

Phil Sands, freelancer

British freelance journalist Sands, 28, was freed on January 1, 2006 by U.S. soldiers who happened upon him by chance during a routine hunt for insurgents. Sands, who contributed to the San Francisco Chronicle and The Scotsman, was abducted by gunmen while on his way to an interview in Baghdad on December 26, 2005. His abduction became public only on January 13.

Two luxury sedans forced Sand’s driver to stop, and some 10 men in ski masks carrying AK-47 rifles surrounded his car, the Chronicle reported. The gunmen pulled Sand’s wool hat down over his eyes, handcuffed him, and put him in the trunk of one of the cars, Sands told the Chronicle. His driver and translator were also abducted.

All three captives were taken to a farmhouse on the outskirts of Baghdad. The gunmen identified themselves only as Sunni Muslims. On his second day in the house, Sand’s abductors videotaped him making an appeal for British troops to leave Iraq, but the video was never broadcast. After U.S. troops stumbled across him, Sands was flown by helicopter to the secure Green Zone in Baghdad. He was then flown to Dubai, where British security officials questioned him for the next seven days. U.S. troops detained the driver and translator.

Sands had been covering the Iraq conflict since February 2003, visiting the country more than 10 times. He was always embedded with U.S. or British troops, but had decided four days before his kidnapping to try reporting in Baghdad on his own.