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Kidnapped Army linguist returning to San Diego

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[April 20, 2010]  SAN DIEGO (AP) -- After more than two months in captivity in Baghdad, a U.S. Army linguist is set to return home to San Diego, authorities said.

HardwareIssa Salomi, 60, was expected to arrive sometime before Sunday, said Maj. Kimberly Holman, a spokeswoman for the California National Guard.

Salomi arrived in San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday for medical tests and debriefings with Army officials at Fort Sam Houston.

"We are preparing to reunite after what has been a very trying and emotional experience," his family said in a statement released by the National Guard. "He has expressed so many feelings - great joy, gratitude and also fatigue. He is very much looking forward to coming home."

Salomi has not made a public appearance since the Pentagon announced his release March 27 but issued a statement saying he was "safe, healthy and unharmed." He said it was one of the most satisfying moments of his life when his plane touched down on U.S. soil.

The family asked for privacy.

A Shiite extremist group claimed responsibility for the Jan. 23 kidnapping and posted a video online that showed a man wearing military fatigues, reading a list of demands for the release of militants, the prosecution of Blackwater guards and an immediate U.S. troop withdrawal.

The group issued a statement indicating Salomi's release came in exchange for the release by the Iraqi government of four of its members.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq, known in English as the League of the Righteous, said the four were freed "in response to our demands following the capture of the American officer" - a reference to Salomi, who was not identified by name.

Salomi was raised in Baghdad as the youngest of four children and studied civil engineering in England. His father worked as a photographer for the Iraqi monarchy.

Salomi became a U.S. citizen and returned to Iraq in 2007 to work as a linguist for American troops, the Army says.

[Associated Press; By ELLIOT SPAGAT]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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