Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More on the brazen and likely sectarian kidnappings

This is a major issue, and early indications are troubling. If Iraqi Security Forces -- or militias operating as such, or militias operating in plain-view of ISF -- conducted these kidnappings and harm a large number of Sunni professionals, it could serve as the bloody antithesis to the Samarra attack in February. These details from the New York Times are ominous:
Shiite leaders, however, say that in most cases the kidnappers are simply criminal thugs, or even Sunni insurgents, who avail themselves of the military-style uniforms that are widely available on the street, and pass themselves off as government forces.

Basil al-Khateed, a spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education, said that the employees who were inside the building at the time of the abduction included Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds.

“It’s not clear if this kidnapping was sectarian or not,” he said.

The abduction today bore many of the hallmarks of sectarian attacks, which have usually ended brutally for the hostages. But the kidnappers released a dozen men later in the day, bound and blindfolded but otherwise apparently unharmed.

One of the 12 said the kidnappers blindfolded the hostages and loaded them into the back of pick-up trucks; he said he believed they were then taken eastward, toward the impoverished Shiite Sadr City neighborhood.

Once they arrived, he said, the gunmen divided their hostages into two groups, asking each for their names (often a sure giveaway of religious sect), requested identification from some of them and asked what each was doing at the ministry that day; ministry employees were asked what their jobs were.

Witnesses said the incident began when about 30 official-looking pickups and Land Cruisers with tinted windows surrounded the ministry buildings in Karada, a middle-class neighborhood considered relatively safe.


The released hostage said he could sense, as he and the other abducted men were driven off in the pickup trucks, that they were crossing the Army Canal Highway, the western boundary of Sadr City. He could hear the gunmen shouting for other drivers and pedestrians to get out of the way, he said.

The released hostage said that when they arrived, the gunmen took their captives into what seemed to be a large hall with a concrete floor and began to grill them about their identities, all the while shouting and terrorizing the men with their weapons.

“They split us into two groups,” he said. “The first group, they said, we will release you. The second group, we will keep you for additional investigation. They put me in the group that would be released.
This concluding paragraph follows the tactics of Shiite death squads in Iraq. The scope of this kidnapping is simply massive.

The impact could be equally destructive. If a large number of these individuals, which I presume are Sunni, do not survive, then there will be retaliations in Sadr city. The terrible cycle will continue at a potentially enhanced pace.

Two crucial CENTCOM metrics are: "Political/religious leaders lose moderating influence over constituents" and "Provocative sectarian attacks/assassinations". This attack is likely to increase instability.


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