News and Document archive source
copyrighted material disclaimer at bottom of page

NewsMinewar-on-terroralqaedakidnappings — Viewing Item

Ransom from italians seen as fueling crisis { September 29 2004 }

Original Source Link: (May no longer be active)§ion=news§ion=news

Ransom payments seen fuelling Iraq's hostage crisis
Wed September 29, 2004 07:18 AM ET

By Luke Baker
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The release of two Italian aid workers in Iraq has raised hopes other hostages may soon be freed, but reports that a large ransom was paid may only feed the burgeoning hostage crisis.

The two Italians, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, both 29, were freed on Tuesday after three weeks in captivity.

They had been seized along with two Iraqi colleagues from a central Baghdad office in a brazen attack witnesses described as very organised and probably carried out by a criminal gang.

Italy rejoiced in the women's freedom on Wednesday, but there were reports a substantial ransom had been paid.

Gustavo Selva, an Italian lawmaker, told French radio a ransom of around $1 million (550,000 pounds) -- a sum already mentioned in Arabic media reports in recent days -- had been handed over.

"In principle, we shouldn't give in to blackmail but this time we had to. Although it's a dangerous path to take because, obviously, it could encourage others to take hostages, either for political reasons or for criminal reasons," Selva told RTL.

"The sum is probably correct," he added.

Earlier this week, one of Kuwait's most respected newspapers, Al-Rai al-Aam, first raised the possibility that the two Simonas might be freed for cash, saying the kidnappers wanted $1 million, down from an initial demand for $5 million.

Senior Iraqi officials and foreign security consultants say ransom payments will only encourage further abductions, while pushing up captors' financial demands.

"The reason for the acceleration in kidnappings is simply because ransoms are being paid, that's it," said Sabah Kadhim, a spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry.

"As a government, we discourage the payment of any ransom. But we have information that kidnappers are being paid, perhaps not directly by governments, but via other channels, through clerics and others who have contact with the kidnappers.

"You can understand why they pay, but it fuels the problem."


Around 130 foreigners have been seized in Iraq in a wave of abductions that began in April. Most of them have been released, but around 30 have been killed, some by beheading.

Over the past year or more, hundreds of Iraqis -- doctors, surgeons and prominent businessmen -- have been kidnapped by criminal gangs who demand ransoms of up to $100,000.

Now, with so many easily-identifiable foreigners in Iraq, criminals appear to have branched out, targeting more lucrative Westerners and foreign workers as well as locals.

Kadhim estimates that about 90 percent of the kidnappings in Iraq are carried out by criminal gangs, who then trade the captives on to militant Islamic groups and other factions.

"If the criminals don't get their money within 72 hours or so, they sell them up the chain to other groups," said a British security consultant who has been operating in Iraq for a year.

"There's vast amounts of money being paid, whether it's by companies, families or governments. It's a very, very good business," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Working in the kidnappers' favour is Iraq's security disarray, along with everyone's preference for secrecy.

"Iraq is in chaos, it's a very murky environment, which suits criminals down to the ground," said the consultant. "Also, the people paying the ransom don't want publicity and nor do the criminals, so everything is clandestine and nothing gets out."

He expects kidnappings to continue for many months, with plenty of Western targets available. The campaign might only stop if all foreigners were to leave the country, he said.

Aware that it has a crisis on its hands, the Iraqi government has formed specialist hostage negotiation teams, helped by the FBI, CIA and other agencies. But it's an uphill struggle. There isn't even a criminal database in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the ransom payments not only fund criminals' lifestyles. Kadhim believes some Iraqi clerics have profited from acting as intermediaries in talks with kidnappers. And the security consultant said some of the money fuels the insurgency.

"There's evidence the cash gets split, with militants getting a share. $1 million buys quite a few RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," he said.

3 kidnapped in kabul { October 29 2004 }
6 egyptians 2 iraqis kidnapped in iraq { September 24 2004 }
Afghan militants threaten united nations hostages { November 1 2004 }
Aid worker hassan believed slain in video
Alqaeda says kills egypt envoy in iraq
Alqaeda website shows egyptian diplomat kidnapped { July 6 2005 }
Brits rescue peace activists held hostage in iraq
Egyptian diplomat kidnapped in iraq { July 23 2004 }
Egyptians and iraqis kidnapped { September 25 2004 }
Filipino hostage released in iraq after pullout { July 20 2004 }
Freed egyptian says treated well by iraqi captors
French journalist freed in iraq after 5 months
Hostage begs britain to pull its troops out { October 23 2004 }
Imprisoned women not freed as tensions grow
Iraqi militants free two hostages
Italian journalist held hostage pleads for life { February 16 2005 }
Italy horror at hostage execution
Japanese hostages freed { April 15 2004 }
Japanese south koreans kidnapped by iraqis { April 8 2004 }
Japanese studying depleted uranium taken hostage { April 12 2004 }
Jeffrey ake from indiana pleads for his life { April 14 2005 }
Kidnapped aid workers in afghanistan released
Kidnapped polish woman freed
Kidnappers snatch 2 americans 1 briton from homes
Marine in kidnap video charged with desertion { December 10 2004 }
Militants release video of japanese hostage { October 27 2004 }
Peace group kidnapped in iraq { October 2005 }
Philippines troops out of iraq
Ransom from italians seen as fueling crisis { September 29 2004 }
Second hostage killed in iraq
Six foreign truck drivers threatened with beheading
Tape of bigley decapitation posted on web
Third beheading was south korean who spoke arabic
Three headless bodies discovered north of baghdad
Three iraqi kurd hostages beheaded
Three members of allawi family abducted { November 10 2004 }
Video of 11 iraqi soliders executed posted on web
Video on web site shows beheading of man

Files Listed: 38


CIA FOIA Archive

National Security
Support one-state solution for Israel and Palestine Tea Party bumper stickers JFK for Dummies, The Assassination made simple