U.S.A.: Still Missing in Iraq

Tim Bell's family will get together to mark his second birthday since the Mobile man disappeared in Iraq on April 9, 2004 following an attack on a truck convoy for a Halliburton subsidiary. Bell's mother and children joined a lawsuit against Halliburton
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Mobile Register

There'll be a cookout and a cake, but still no Tim.

Tim Bell's family will get together today to mark his 46th birthday. It will be the second birthday since the Mobile man disappeared in Iraq on April 9, 2004.

Marjorie Bell Smith, Tim's mother, also celebrates her birthday today. But without her oldest son, it's hard to strike a completely festive tone, said Felicia Carter, Tim's sister.

"It's kind of one you really don't look forward to because of the circumstances," Carter said. "But we're confident we'll make it through."

Bell vanished following an attack on a jet fuel convoy in which the civilian was driving a truck. He had gone to Iraq to work for Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., the Houston-based firm with a multibillion-dollar contract to supply U.S. military forces in Iraq and Kuwait.

If Bell was home today, he'd probably be with family members, Carter said.

"Most of his birthdays he spent with family and friends," she said. "He's a really outgoing person."

Carter said April has been "a pretty tough month." Family members commemorated the anniversary of Bell's disappearance with a Mass in downtown's Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church. Carter said they also marked a birthday of Bell's son, Nicholas Caffey.

Also this month, Bell's mother and children joined a suit against Halliburton in Texas state court, along with the family members of six other dead civilians, as well as nine survivors. Another survivor had sued Halliburton earlier in California federal court.

Six contractors and two soldiers died as a result of the attack in which Bell disappeared. The incident has been best known for an American who got away, though. Thomas "Tommy" Hamill, another truck driver, escaped his captors nearly a month after the attack, returning to a hero's welcome in his hometown of Macon, Miss.

Word has leaked out in dribs and drabs that military forces are looking for Bell and for Sgt. Keith "Matt" Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, an Army reservist who also remains missing. As many as seven other American civilians are missing in Iraq, the U.S. State Department said earlier this month.

The lawsuits charge that Halliburton concealed the dangers of working in Iraq, failed to protect workers once there, and maliciously sent them into a known combat zone on April 9, 2004.

The suit, for legal purposes, assumes Bell is dead. Family members still say they look for him to return alive.

For now, Carter and other family members wait for some kind of word, though little information has been made public. "We're just out in limbo still," she said.

Carter said she hopes to keep her big brother's case in the public eye.

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