Much more to come in Iraq hostage
crisis By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - The surge in hostage-taking in Iraq,
with the most recent involving two Pakistani nationals,
could be the prelude to many, as hundreds of foreigners
are missing in the country, a number of whom are
believed to have already been taken by the Iraqi
resistance to be displayed later.
The capture of
the two Pakistanis also serves as a warning that the
citizens of Muslim countries will be targeted if they
"collaborate" with the United States, even in the most
tenuous way as civilian workers in the country.
Sajid Naeem, 29, a driver, and Raja Azad, 49, an
engineer, went missing in Iraq on Friday after a convoy
of trucks in which they were traveling was attacked. The
two men work for al-Tamimi, a legal firm based in the
United Arab Emirates. An Iraqi militant group calling
itself the Islamic Army of Iraq said it had taken the
two for working for US forces and sentenced them to
death because Pakistan was discussing sending soldiers
Pakistan is considering sending about
1,000 troops under United Nations cover to guard UN
premises all over Iraq. However, Islamabad has also been
said to be considering dispatching up to 10,000
"non-combatant" troops for peacekeeping purposes.
This would take place once three other Muslim
countries, Yemen, Morocco and Jordan, fulfilled their
promises to provide troops for Iraq to join up with
soldiers from more than 30 countries (none of them
Muslim) already under US command in Iraq.
Previously, an Iraqi resistance group abducted
Pakistani national Amjad Hafeez, but being a Muslim they
let him go.
Similarly, on Monday, Mohamed
Mamdouh Qutb, the third-highest Egyptian diplomat in
Iraq, who had been abducted outside a mosque last
Friday, was released "because of the religious faith and
moral qualities he possesses", according to a taped
message from the Lions of Allah Brigade broadcast on
alJazeera television. Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi
visited Cairo last week reportedly to discuss the option
of using Egyptian troops to train Iraq's forces.
The hostage-takers are unlikely to be as lenient
should Pakistan and other Muslim countries actually
commit troops. According to the latest available
information, two Pakistanis, an Egyptian, three Indians,
two Kenyans and two Jordanians are being held.
group calling itself the Bearers of the Black Banners
said it was holding the Egyptians, Indians and three
Kenyans. It says the detained men all drove trucks for
the Kuwaiti company al-Tamimi, which supports the US
military in Iraq by transporting supplies.
two Jordanians, also truck drivers, were kidnapped and
threatened with execution by a group calling itself the
Mujahideen Corps. According to a taped message from the
kidnappers aired by Associated Press Television Network,
if the Jordanian construction and catering company they
work for, Daoud and Partners, does not stop doing
business with the US military, the men will be killed.
The Times of India, quoting the Kuwait News
Agency (KUNA), said more than 100 Pakistanis were
missing in Iraq. These include job-seekers lured by a
broker to work in the European Union. "But when they
reached Iraq, the agent dumped them there owing to the
US-led invasion," sources in Pakistan told KUNA. "Since
then, they have been stranded there. Some have managed
to escape, while others have been taken hostage."
That Pakistanis were in Iraq first became known
when the parents of two missing cousins - Nadeem Hameed
and Arshad Haieder - approached the government and the
International Ansar Burney Welfare Trust (IABWT) seeking
help for their release, the paper maintained, quoting
Speaking to Asia Times Online in a
telephone interview, the head of IABWT, Ansar Burney,
said he had recently visited Iraq and his investigations
revealed that more than 400 Pakistani pilgrims and other
visitors had reached Iraq via the Iran border without
visas, and their whereabouts was not known.
was contacted by the family members here in Pakistan
whose relatives visited Iraq as pilgrims or as
job-seekers as they heard rumors that under US
administration new jobs would be created and dished out
to them. Since there were no restrictions at the
borders, no visas or anything, as a result I personally
witnessed a large number of people from different
countries walking into Iraq. The chances of infiltration
cannot be ruled out in this kind of a situation as
well," Burney maintained.
He said that during
his stay in Iraq he found the country in complete chaos
and anarchy. Recently he received information that a few
Pakistani pilgrims had been detained by US forces as
terror suspects, and he was soon going back to Iraq to
seek their release.
He said that of the hundreds
of missing Pakistanis, there was a strong possibility
that many had already been abducted and were being held
in "private jails" to be used as bargaining chips for
future demands. This could also be the case for other
nationals, he said.
The hostage-taking tactic
has had success already. So far this year more than 60
foreigners have been abducted in Iraq. While most have
been freed - at least six have been killed - disturbing
videotapes have been aired by their captors to pressure
their countries against doing business with the US
military, or sending troops to Iraq.
broadcast of a tape showing abducted Filipino Angelo de
la Cruz led to large demonstrations in Manila. These
were followed by withdrawal of the small cadre of
soldiers the Philippines had dispatched to Iraq. This
was seen again in the reaction in South Korea to Kim
Sun-il's video of his desperate plea for his life.
Demonstrations pressured the government to reconsider
any ties to the US-led occupation of Iraq. Graphic
videos, such as that of the US businessman Nick Berg's
head being sawn off, have incited political dissent.
The resistance appears to be attempting to
shrink the supply of foreign workers and militaries
supporting the US occupation and reconstruction of Iraq.
With fewer foreign workers and troops, US forces are
forced to take on more responsibilities, while also
(Additional reporting by
Inter Press Service)
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