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Iraqi, Coalition Forces Targeted Kidnapping Cell, not Mosque

30 March 2006

Terrorists distort news reports, finance attacks with ransom, says U.S. general

By David I. McKeeby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – As the world celebrated the release of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll, U.S. Major General Rick Lynch reminded reporters in Baghdad that every day, innocent Iraqis are kidnapped by criminals, insurgents and terrorists who fund their activities with ransoms.

“We have reason to believe and evidence to support [the fact] that terrorists and foreign fighters are using kidnapping as a way to finance their operations.” Lynch said during a March 30 press briefing in the Iraqi capital.

On March 26, the military spokesman said, a coalition-trained team of Iraqi Special Operations Forces raided a Baghdad compound to rescue an Iraqi hostage, only to face criticism and protests prompted by misleading media reports alleging that they, instead, attacked civilians praying in a mosque.

“Someone made a conscious decision to make this look like something it wasn’t – that it was an attack against a mosque with innocent civilians praying and none of that is true,” said Lynch.


The unidentified Iraqi rescued in the March 26 operation had been snatched 12 hours earlier from the streets of Baghdad, on his way to visit his brother in the hospital, Lynch said. He added that the man reported being beaten in the car en route to a complex, located in the Aadhamiya neighborhood in northeast Baghdad, where he was bound, gagged and tortured by his abductors.  They threatened to kill him unless they received $20,000.

Timely intelligence, similar to that which led to the coalition rescue of three members from the Christian Peacemaking Teams, led to another “flawless” rescue operation, this time “led, planned, and executed by Iraqi Special Operations, ” Lynch said. (See related article.)

On March 26, the spokesman said, Iraqi Special Operations Forces received information concerning a group of kidnappers operating out of a large walled compound in Baghdad.

Lynch said that 50 members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces, joined by 25 U.S. advisers carefully surveyed the area, finding that the nearest mosque was six blocks from the kidnappers’ hideout.

“We’re very sensitive in all of our operations to specific areas, specific landmarks, and specific religious facilities,” Lynch said, emphasizing, “We don’t target mosques.”

As Iraqi forces approached and entered the compound, they exchanged gunfire with the insurgents, killing 16, and arresting 18 more.  In addition to freeing the man, Lynch reported that forces seized weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials in a small husseineya, or prayer hall, located within the compound.

In contrast to the coalition’s care in selecting targets, Lynch observed, “The enemy does just the opposite.  He’s occupying mosques and buildings with husseineyas and using them to store weapons, munitions, to shoot from, to keep hostages they’ve captured.”


Despite the success of the rescue, many Iraqis remain angry about the rescue, due to local news reports that claimed the raid was conducted on a mosque and disturbing images of the killed kidnappers that were replayed widely in the media.

“When people woke up Monday morning, many were misled by what they saw in the media.” Lynch said. Several protests were held in Baghdad, and city officials threatened to stop cooperating with the coalition until the incident was investigated fully.

Lynch reminded reporters that coalition forces have intercepted messages from Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, saying that, “half of the battlefield is in the media,” and urging terrorists to use it to exaggerate their capabilities. (See related article.)

In recent days, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has reflected on the challenges involved in countering the terrorists’ propaganda successes.

In a March 28 interview, Rumsfeld observed that, “It's very difficult to compete with people who lie consistently.  [Al-Qaida leaders] Bin Laden and Zawahiri and [al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi have media committees and they sit down and they plan how they're going to manipulate the press.” (See related article.)

Rumsfeld said they do this because “they know in a free system the press is free and whatever lie they can come up with gets printed.  Then we have to go out and figure out what the truth is and try to nail it down.”

For more information, see Iraq Update News.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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