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Seven U.S. contractors missing in Iraq
Monday April 12, 2004 1:56 pm ET

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 12 (Reuters) - Seven civilian contractors working for a subsidiary of Halliburton are missing in Iraq after an ambush on a convoy last week, the Texas-based firm and the U.S. military said on Monday.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters in video conference from Baghdad the contractors were working for Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of the U.S. oil services firm run until 2000 by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

The contractors vanished after an attack on a U.S. convoy in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. Two U.S. soldiers also disappeared in the incident.

A Reuters photographer saw the aftermath of an attack on a convoy carrying fuel in Abu Ghraib on Friday. He saw at least nine dead bodies, many badly burned.

One of those missing, an American man being held hostage, is believed to have been taken captive after the same attack. Thomas Hamill, whose pictures have been aired on various television networks, was reported as saying he was the only survivor of the ambush.

Halliburton said the attack on a transportation convoy came during a "routine mission" last week for a logistics contract it holds with the U.S. Army. At any time KBR had more than 700 trucks on Kuwaiti and Iraqi roads, the firm said.

Halliburton said in a statement that Hamill was in their prayers and the company hoped he would soon be returned safely to his family.

"In these agonizing moments, the company is doing everything possible to assist the family as well as our employees who must summon all of their patience and hopefulness in this difficult period," Halliburton said.

Hamill, a struggling dairy farmer from Macon, Mississippi, went to work for KBR last year in Iraq in a bid to pay his family's bills back home.

Macon Mayor Dorothy Baker Hines described Hamill as a "quiet man, a good daddy and a good husband," who was trying to look out for his two children and wife, who recently had major heart surgery.

"Everyone was afraid for him to go but he felt like it was the best thing for him and his family," Hines told ABC.

Halliburton said the company's thoughts were also with six other missing KBR colleagues and the personnel assisting with the search and rescue effort.

"This is one of those pivotal moments when we hope all those in Iraq -- soldiers, civilian workers and the Iraqi people -- feel the power and spirit of a united America," said the statement. An unknown number of foreign hostages are being held captive in Iraq, where U.S. troops are battling Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents in towns across the center and south of the country.

KBR is the largest contractor in Iraq, holding contracts that could eventually be worth $19 billion. About 30 of the company's staff and its subcontractors have been killed while doing work in Kuwait and Iraq.