MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – One of the four U.S. contractors abducted by insurgents in southern Iraq is a former suburban police officer described by friends and family as an “easygoing, fun-loving type of guy” who was ready to come home.

“He had that classic teddy bear disposition that made people like and care about him,” St. Louis Park Police Chief John D. Luse said of Paul Reuben, who has been working as a private security contractor in Iraq.

Reuben, 39, and the others were escorting a convoy in Iraq when it was hijacked near the Kuwait border.

His twin brother, Patrick Reuben, told the Star Tribune the State Department called him Thursday with the news. He said Reuben had been in Iraq for about two years working for Crescent Security Group and intended to earn enough money to buy a house and a Hummer and then come home. Their mother said Friday that she hopes the men holding her son “remember their own mothers.”

“I want them to think what it’s like for a mother to want her son back,” Johnnie Mae Reuben told The Associated Press. “I want my son back.”

“We’re not getting much information right now,” said her daughter Suzanne Reuben.

Joanne Moore, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said she couldn’t provide any specific details on Reuben, citing privacy and security concerns.

She said the department had been in touch with family members of all the Americans taken. Reuben is the only one so far whose identity has been publicly revealed.

As the coalition forces searched for the contractors, confusion grew about their fate.

A top Iraqi police official in Basra said none of the four Americans nor an Austrian with them had been freed. He claimed the provincial governor, who had announced the release of two of the hostages, had confused separate incidents in the same area involving private security forces.

Basra police Maj. Gen. Ali al-Moussawi said the five were still in the hands of what he called a criminal gang. He said the kidnappers had demanded a ransom.

Suzanne Reuben said that her most recent contact with her brother was a few weeks ago, when they exchanged instant messages by computer. He told her he was ready to come home.

“This time was going to be his last time over there,” Suzanne Reuben said. “He was eager to come home.”

He was hoping to be home by Nov. 24 – the day after Thanksgiving, and his and his brother’s 40th birthday, their mother said.

AP-ES-11-17-06 1625EST


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