If someone who was a hostage for three terrifying days can be considered lucky, then Aysahr Ahmed is lucky.
He was kidnapped by gunmen in Baghdad last week. He was held for three days and then thrown into the trunk of a car, for a journey he was sure would end in his murder. But he was rescued when a U.S. patrol stumbled across him.
Charlie Company from the Second Battalion 12th Infantry Regiment went on patrol near their new base in one of Baghdad's most dangerous districts, Gazalia. The neighborhood sits on the fault line between Sunni and Shiites.
A sniper fired, and American troops ran after him, firing back, as he jumped from roof to roof.
As they kept searching for the sniper, the soldiers noticed four men abandoning a car and running away.
Sgt. Sergiy Michaud said: "We were standing beside the car and I was looking inside and saw a black hood and some AK-47 magazines with rounds inside. And then the car started shaking, you know, and I got scared. I'm like,"Whoa, what the hell?' And inside the trunk was this guy, we could hear him say, 'Thank you, thank you.' He heard English while we were speaking."
Sgt. Michaud pried open the trunk and pulled out a young man, blindfolded and bound in handcuffs.
"When he take me out of the truck, I kiss him so much," Ahmed said through a translator.
The kidnapping began when Ahmed tried to get a black-market passport to escape Iraq. The Shiite Mahdi militia had burned down his mobile phone store three months earlier. He decided to flee with his wife and 3-month-old daughter.
A friend gave him a contact who promised he could get him a passport — but instead, he was bundled into the trunk of a car and taken to one of the many abandoned houses in Gazalia. His kidnappers asked his father for $100,000.
Ahmed believes his friend sold him out.
When Ahmed called his family to tell them he was safe, they refused to believe it. They were afraid to come and get him. Other Sunni families have lost more sons when they sent them to look for the first missing son. Eventually Ahmed's father was persuaded that his son had truly been rescued.
With tears pouring down his wizened face, 54-year-old Ahmed Jassim kissed every American soldier in sight. For this group of soldiers, it was a very good day.
The U.S. troops would probably have not found Ahmed if they hadn't been living right in the neighborhood, instead of at a large base, removed from most neighbors. The young man's mother told the soldiers that her family has a big yard next to their house. Come and set up a base there, she told them.