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    Middle East
     Jan 21, 2005
Kidnappings keep Iraq pot boiling
By B Raman

Eight Chinese workers from Fujian, who were travelling by car to Jordan from Najaf in Iraq after having worked in a Chinese-aided power project there, on their way to catch a flight to China, were detained by an Iraqi resistance group on January 18 to protest against Chinese involvement in the project.

There is so far no reason to believe that this was an instance of targeted kidnapping by the resistance fighters. It would seem that the kidnappers ran into the Chinese workers as they were travelling by car to Jordan, questioned them and detained them after finding out that they were working in a Chinese-aided project in Najaf.

A statement with a video picture of the hostages released by the resistance group the next day said: "We have taken these individuals hostage as they were trying to leave Iraq. After interrogating them, we learned that they are Chinese working for a Chinese contracting company in Iraq. This company is carrying out the task of rebuilding one of the American bases. We call upon the Chinese government to issue a statement saying they would not allow their citizens to help their enemy, the          Americans."

The statement warned that the hostages would face death unless and until Beijing "clarified" its role in Iraq within 48 hours. Thus, apart from a demand for a clarification statement from the Chinese government and an assurance of non-involvement of its citizens in future in helping the US occupation forces in Iraq, the kidnappers have not put forward any other demand - at least not openly.

The video recording showed the Chinese holding up their passports. There were no indications of any humiliation of the hostages, such as forcing them to wear orange-colored clothes similar to those worn by the American-held detainees in the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

While a Chinese government spokesman claimed that the men had gone to Iraq individually in search of work and, having failed, were travelling by car to Jordan in order to return home, the official Xinhua news agency quoted sources as saying that the men had been working on a Chinese project to rebuild a factory in Najaf - a project which Xinhua said had nothing to do with the US-led multinational forces. According to Iraqi sources, they were working in a power station which was being repaired by the Chinese company employing them.

The Chinese government spokesman said that the Chinese government had always placed emphasis on the protection of the interests of the Iraqi people and added, "The Chinese people have always cherished friendly feelings towards the Iraqi people and sympathized and supported them."

The kidnapping came three weeks after a visit to Beijing by Hoshiar A Zibari, the foreign minister of the Iraqi interim government, in the last week of December, for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing. During the visit, Li was quoted as saying that China attached great importance to developing its relations with Iraq and was willing to promote friendly bilateral cooperation. He added that China closely followed the situation in Iraq, and the attempts to maintain Iraq's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. He said that China hoped Iraq would set up a widely representative government through a general election and continuously push forward its political reconstruction. After the talks, the two sides exchanged letters on China's assistance for Iraq's general election.

China pledged US$25 million of humanitarian assistance to Iraq in October 2003, in addition to reportedly promising that the Chinese enterprises would play an active role in the reconstruction of Iraq. It is, however, not known whether Chinese workers are employed in any other project in addition to the Najaf power project in which the eight kidnapped Chinese were reportedly working.

The Chinese authorities seem to make a distinction between assistance to the reconstruction projects of the interim government, which would benefit the Iraqi people and not the American occupiers, and to projects associated with the American occupation. The terrorists and resistance fighters do not accept such a distinction and apparently want Chinese workers not to work in any project in Iraq till the US occupation ends.

In April last year an unidentified Iraqi group kidnapped seven Chinese farm laborers, also from Fujian, who were travelling from Mosul to Fallujah. The Chinese authorities claimed that those workers had gone to Iraq on their own in search of jobs. All of them were released unharmed.

The responsibility for the present kidnapping has been claimed by an organization calling itself the "Islamic Resistance Movement - Al-Numan [also written as al-Noaman] Brigade". The same group had kidnapped in September last year a Turkish truck driver and demanded that all operations of Turkish companies in support of the US occupation troops should stop. He was subsequently released. Nothing much is known about the leadership of this group and its past background.

A communique issued on December 10 last year by what was described as the media platoon of the Islamic Jihad Army of the Resistance Movement said:
People of the world! These words come to you from those who up to the day of the invasion were struggling to survive under the sanctions imposed by the criminal regimes of the US and Britain We are simple people who chose principles over fear. We have suffered crimes and sanctions, which we consider the true weapons of mass destruction. Years and years of agony and despair, while the condemned UN traded with our oil revenues in the name of world stability and peace. Over 2 million innocents died waiting for a light at the end of a tunnel that only ended with the occupation of our country and the theft of our resources. After the crimes of the administrations of the US and Britain in Iraq , we have chosen our future. The future of every resistance struggle ever in the history of man. It is our duty, as well as our right, to fight back the occupying forces, for which their nations will be held morally and economically responsible; for what their elected governments have destroyed and stolen from our land. We have not crossed the oceans and seas to occupy Britain or the US nor are we responsible for 9/11 [September 11, 2001].

These are only a few of the lies that these criminals present to cover their true plans for the control of the energy resources of the world, in face of a growing China and a strong unified Europe. It is ironic that the Iraqis are to bear the full force of this large and growing conflict on behalf of the rest of this sleeping world. Stop using the US dollar, use the euro or a basket of currencies. Reduce or halt your consumption of British and US products. Put an end to Zionism before it ends the world. Educate those in doubt of the true nature of this conflict and do not believe their media, for their casualties are far higher than they admit. We only wish we had more cameras to show the world their true defeat. The enemy is on the run. They are in fear of a resistance movement they cannot see nor predict. We now choose when, where, and how to strike. And as our ancestors drew the first sparks of civilization, we will redefine the word "conquest". Today we write a new chapter in the art of urban warfare. Know that by helping the Iraqi people you are helping yourselves, for tomorrow may bring the same destruction to you. Helping the Iraqi people does not mean dealing with the Americans for a few contracts here and there. You must continue to isolate their strategy. This conflict is no longer considered a localized war. We will pin them here in Iraq to drain their resources, manpower, and their will to fight. We will make them spend as much as they steal, if not more. We will disrupt, then halt the flow of our stolen oil, thus, rendering their plans useless.
A perusal of the communique and the moderate language free of rhetoric used in it would indicate that this movement may have more to do with the Sunni resistance fighters than with the foreign terrorists allied with al-Qaeda, the language of whose communiques are very strong and try to incite acts of terrorism. A joint article titled "An Inventory of Iraqi Resistance Groups" written by two Iraqi journalists, Samir Haddad and Mazin Ghazi, and published on September 19, in a Baghdad Arabic weekly journal called al-Zawra, of the Iraqi Journalists Association, categorized the various resistance and terrorist groups active in Iraq as follows:

Sunni groups fighting to end the US-led occupation, but not necessarily for the return of the Ba'athist regime:
  • The Iraqi National Islamic Resistance - the "1920 Revolution Brigades". It came to notice for the first time on July 16, 2003. It describes its aim as to establish a liberated and independent Iraqi state on an Islamic basis. It has been active in the area west of Baghdad, in the regions of Abu Ghraib, Khan Dari and Fallujah and in the governorates of Ninwi, Diyali and al-Anbar. Its statements claiming responsibility for its operations are usually distributed at the gates of mosques as people come out after prayers. Among the successful operations for which it claimed responsibility last year were the shooting down of an American helicopter in the Abu Ghraib region on August 1, 2004, by its al-Zubayr bin al-Awwam Brigade and the shooting down of a Chinook helicopter in the al-Nuaymiyah region, near Fallujah, by the Martyr Nur-al-Din Brigade on August 9.
  • The National Front for the Liberation of Iraq, consisting of 10 resistance groups. It started operating almost immediately after the occupation of Baghdad by the Americans in April 2003, as if its members had been trained and briefed on how to operate against the Americans long before the US-led invasion of Iraq. Its activities show that what was projected by the US as the disintegration of Saddam Hussein's army was actually a well-planned and well-executed withering away of the army in order to be able to operate as a guerilla force of a myriad secret cells against the occupying troops. According to the two Iraqi journalists, it consists of nationalists and Islamists. It has been active in Arbil and Karkuk in northern Iraq; in Fallujah, Samarra and Tikrit in central Iraq, in the Basra and Babil governorates in the south and in the Diyali governorate in the east. However, according to the journalists, it has not been as successful in its operations as the 1920 Revolution Brigades.
  • The Iraqi Resistance Islamic Front - JAMI . It came to notice for the first time on May 30, 2004. It claims to be fighting against the American occupiers and Jewish conspiracies in Iraq. Mainly active in the governorates of Ninwi and Diyali. According to statements issued by the front, JAMI's military wings, called the Salah-al-Din and Sayf-Allah al-Maslul Brigades, have carried out dozens of operations against the US occupation forces. Among the operations for which it has claimed credit are the shelling of the occupation command headquarters and the semi-daily shelling of Mosul airport. According to the Iraqi journalists, its targets are members of the US intelligence and it has killed many of them in the al-Faysaliyah area in Mosul, and also in the governorate of Diyali, where the front's al-Rantisi Brigade sniped a US soldier and used mortars to shell al-Faris airport.
  • Other small factions. Their activities are sporadic. Examples: (1)The Hamzah Faction. A Sunni group that appeared for the first time on October 10, 2003, in Fallujah and called for the release of a local sheikh known as Sheikh Jamal Nidal, who was arrested by the US forces. (2)The Iraqi Liberation Army. It came to notice on July 15, 2003. It warned foreign countries against sending troops to Iraq and threatened to attack them. (3)The Awakening and Holy War Group. It has been active in Fallujah. It filmed an operation on videotape and sent the tape to Iranian television on July 7, 2003. On the tape, it described Saddam Hussein and the US as two sides of the same coin. (4)The White Banners. It, too, was critical of Saddam, as well as the US. It claimed to be operating in association with two other groups calling themselves the Muslim Youths and Muhammad's Army. Surprisingly, it criticized the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad for reasons which were not clear. (5)Al-Haqq Army. It is also critical of the US, as well as of Saddam.

    Ba'athist organizations fighting for the return of the Ba'athist regime
    They do not carry out any military operations of their own. Instead, they provide support services to other Sunni groups, such as supply of funds, arms and ammunition, sanctuaries etc. Examples: (1)Al-Awdah (The Return). It is active in northern Iraq - Samarra, Tikrit, Al-Dur and Mosul. It reportedly consists of members of the former intelligence apparatus. (2)Saddam's Fedayeen. No longer active. Its members are reported to have joined other groups, such as the September 11 Revolutionary Group and the Serpent's Head Movement.

    Shi'ite organizations opposing US occupation
  • The Al-Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, which has not been active of late.
  • The Imam Ali bin Abi-Talib Jihadi Brigade. This group appeared for the first time on October 12, 2003. It threatened to carry out militant operations against countries sending troops to Iraq to assist US troops. It also threatened to assassinate all the members of the Interim Governing Council and any Iraqi cooperating with the coalition forces. It also announced that Najaf and Karbala were the battlegrounds in which it would target US forces. Not very active. More rhetoric than action.

    Groups that focus on kidnappings
    The more active of these groups are: (1)The Assadullah Brigade. Among its prominent operations of 2004 was the kidnapping in July of Muhammad Mamduh Hilmi Qutb, an Egyptian diplomat, in protest against an Egyptian government offer of security training facilities to the interim Iraqi government. He was released after a week. (2) The Islamic Retaliation Movement. It kidnapped a US Marine of Lebanese origin, Wasif Ali Hassun, on July 19, 2004, and then released him. There has since been some doubt about the genuineness of this kidnapping and this organization: there have been allegations that the Marine stage-managed his own kidnapping. (3)The Islamic Anger Brigade. It kidnapped 15 Lebanese allegedly working for the Americans in June 2004, killed one of them and released the others. (4) The Khalid bin al-Walid Brigade and the Iraqi Martyrs' Brigade. They are believed to be the ones who kidnapped Italian journalist Enzo Bladoni in August 2004 and killed him. (5) The Black Banner Group of the Secret Islamic Army. It kidnapped three Indians, two Kenyans and an Egyptian working for a Kuwaiti company operating in Iraq. The aim was to compel the company to stop its activities in Iraq. The hostages were later released.

    Pro-al-Qaeda groups largely consisting of foreigners and led by foreigners.
    They indulge in acts of terrorism not only against American troops, but also against Iraqis collaborating with them.
  • The al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad Group. It is led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian. It is now called Qaeda't al-Jihad. It identifies itself as the al-Qaeda of Iraq. Believed to have been responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Nicholas Berg, an American national, in May 2004. It also kidnapped and killed a South Korean working for a South Korean company under contract with the US Army in Iraq.
  • The Islamic Army in Iraq. It kidnapped the Iranian consul in Baghdad, Feredion Jahani, and two French journalists, Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot. They were subsequently released.
  • The Jaish Ansar al-Sunnah. It kidnapped 12 Nepalese on August 23, 2004, and subsequently killed them. It also reportedly organized the suicide attack inside the improvised dining hall of American troops in Mosul in December. It is led by another Jordanian, Abu Abdullah al-Hassan bin Mahmud.

    The total number of hostages killed so far is: two Italians, two US nationals, two Pakistanis, one Egyptian, one Turk, one Lebanese, one Bulgarian, one South Korean and 12 Nepalese.

    The two Iraqi journalists wrote of the indigenous resistance groups not associated with pro-al-Qaeda terrorist organizations as follows:
    After the fall of Baghdad into the hands of the Anglo-American occupation on April 9, 2003, as a natural reaction, several sectors of Iraqi society confronted the occupation. Resistance cells were formed, the majority of which were of Islamic Sunni and pan-Arab tendencies. These cells started in the shape of scattered groups, without a unifying bond to bind them together. These groups and small cells started to grow gradually, until they matured to some extent and acquired a clear personality that had its own political and military weight. Then they started combining themselves into larger groups. The majority of these groups do not know their leadership, the sources of their financing, or who provides them with weapons. However, the large number of weapons, which the Saddam Hussein regime left behind, are undoubtedly one of the main sources for arming these groups. Their intellectual tendencies are usually described as a mixture of Islamic and pan-Arab ideas that agree on the need to put an end to the US presence in Iraq.
    An analysis of the various incidents in Iraq last year would indicate that while most of the targeted attacks with hand-held weapons, mortars, explosives, etc, on the American and other coalition troops were apparently carried out by the Iraqi resistance groups, most of the suicide attacks, which targeted Iraqi policemen, national guards and other government servants collaborating with the Americans, were carried out by the pro-al-Qaeda terrorist organizations.

    Are the two cooperating presently? If so, is there a common command and control? Possibly yes, but the evidence is not yet conclusive.

    B Raman is additional secretary (retired), cabinet secretariat, government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and, distinguished fellow and convener, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter. Email: corde@vsnl.com )

    (Copyright B Raman)

  • Ansar al-Islam spreads its wings
    (Jan 15, '05)

    Golems of violence
    (Jan 13, '05)

    The taming of Sadr City (Jan 12, '05)

    The devastation of Iraq (Jan 11, '05)

    India makes a case for release of hostages
    (Jul 23, '04)


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