By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Terrorism experts and former prisoners of war were optimistic Friday that Union Township soldier Matthew Maupin, a 20-year-old soldier who is being held hostage by Iraq insurgents, will come out of the ordeal alive.
The Arab television station Al-Jazeera aired video of Maupin surrounded by masked men holding assault rifles.
Maupin, who looks somber and glances downward occasionally during the recording, appears unharmed. Maupin and another soldier in the 724th Transportation Company have been missing since last Friday after their convoy was attacked west of Baghdad.
Charles Figley, a professor in the School of Social Work and director of the Traumatology Institute at Florida State University, said Maupin likely was captured as a prisoner of war, which gives him an increased chance of survival.
"He's more valuable to them alive," Figley said.
"They can barter for him. They can exchange prisoners. They can be perceived as humanitarian. If he were killed, it would be over with."
On the tape, one of the captors can be heard saying: "We are keeping him to be exchanged for some of the prisoners captured by the occupation forces."
'He's got a chance'
Fairfield Township resident Frank Bates, a prisoner of war during World War II, said Maupin has been in his prayers, and he was thrilled to hear he's alive.
"I certainly think he's got a chance," Bates said.
"They are probably using him for a scare tactic."
Bates was taken prisoner by Nazi troops in Germany in 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge. He was held captive for six months.
He was sent to prison camps and worked on a railroad. He and other POWs with him had little medical attention and little food. His weight dropped from 165 pounds to 96 pounds, and he suffered frostbite.
Bates said he feels for Maupin.
"He's certainly praying a lot and scared stiff," he said. "I know we were."
Ed Bridgeman, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati and an authority on terrorism, said he was encouraged by the moderate tone of the group holding Maupin. He said the gunmen appeared to be treating Maupin as a POW instead of a hostage.
"To them, a hostage is just another weapon, like a bomb," he said.
"Terrorists will use a hostage to their own advantage as much as that advantage needs to be."
Maupin has a much better chance to survive as a prisoner of war, Bridgeman said.
Focus, too, on family
While it's natural for people to be concerned about Maupin's safety, Figley said he hopes they remember to focus on his family and friends, too.
"The longer time goes by, the greater the likelihood that he'll survive and come home," Figley said.
But "for his family and people who care about him and love him," the passage of time becomes more difficult, he said.
"Family members are glued to the television, at every single phone call they jump, they rack their brains to do something to help," Figley said.
"They are the ones who go through pure hell."
The Associated Press contributed. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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