Tom Uhlman  /  AP
Kelly Cooper, 19, cries while she holds hands with other supporters of Pfc. Keith M. Maupin during prayer at a gathering in support of Maupin in Batavia, Ohio, on Friday. Maupin was shown on Arab TV held captive by unidentified gunmen in Iraq.
updated 4/17/2004 9:34:41 AM ET 2004-04-17T13:34:41

Friends and neighbors in the hometown of a 20-year-old soldier taken hostage in Iraq say their prayers were answered with the news that he is alive. Now they are praying for his safe return.

Army Pfc. Keith M. Maupin, known as Matt, was shown on video footage Friday surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

Maupin and Sgt. Elmer C. Krause, 40, of Greensboro, N.C., were listed as missing after their convoy was attacked April 9 outside Baghdad.

“We have believed all along that our prayers would be answered and we ask that you continue to believe in his safe return,” Carl Cottrell II, a spokesman for Maupin’s family, said Friday.

David Stultz, 51, a family friend, said he thought Maupin decided to join the military after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I think it was something that with the war coming on, a lot of young men wanted to contribute in some way after 9/11,” Stultz said in a phone interview. “He felt this was a way he could do it and get some experience.”

J. Michael Stahl, who attends the University of Cincinnati and has taken classes with Maupin, said the soldier is a fervent baseball fan.

“He’s a huge UC fan. He liked baseball and liked the Reds, but I’m not sure about the Bengals,” Stahl said. “We would talk baseball almost every morning.”

Yellow ribbons dotted the family’s neighborhood of modest one-story houses, located about 15 miles east of Cincinnati. Several American flags were flying outside.

‘He’s a great kid’
Police closed off Main Street to accommodate the several hundred people who gathered in front of the courthouse for a vigil Friday night.

An honor guard of former Marines stood next to a 2-foot by 2½-foot photos of Maupin in uniform, and several people in the crowd wore a smaller version of the photo pinned to their shirts and blouses.

“He’s a great kid,” said Peggy Luck, a bus driver from Maupin’s former southwest Ohio school district. “Every parent wants a kid to grow up to be like him.”

Terry Anderson, who was chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press when he was kidnapped in 1985 by pro-Iranian Shiite Muslims, said Maupin may take some satisfaction knowing that through the videotape he was able to let his family know he is alive.

“The sense you’ve been able to communicate in some way, 'I’m OK, I’m alive’ — those are the things I know will be working for him,” said Anderson, 56, a candidate for the Ohio Senate.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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