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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Focus on increase in kidnappings

BAGHDAD, 11 April 2005 (IRIN) - Haydar Jabbar, 15, will never be able to forget the miserable days he spent in captivity after being kidnapped and shot in the leg. He bares the scars of his ordeal - a row of stitches in his right leg. The young man has been bed-ridden for 40 days and doctors say he may never walk again.

"I can say that I am lucky to be here today because I have two friends who were killed even after the payment of the ransom. Something should be done to end this horrendous situation," he told IRIN in the capital Baghdad.

He was kidnapped in February 2005 with his brother and they were held captive for 15 days. The family had to pay US $50,000 for their freedom. Theirs is just one of hundreds of such kidnapping cases in the country.


Iraqi families are becoming increasingly concerned over a rise in kidnappings, where youngsters are being held for huge amounts of ransom money.

According to the Ministry of Interior (MoI), more than 130 cases have been registered since July 2004 and 31 gangs have been arrested by the police in the capital, where the majority of kidnappings take place. But many cases aren't reported to the Iraqi police for security reasons.

Sabah Kadham, deputy minister of the interior, told IRIN that a special department had been established in the ministry to deal with such cases and that staff had received additional training for this type of investigation.


Many schools in Iraq have increased security and some of them have even set up check points at entrances to ensure that only parents are authorised to collect children from schools.

Mansour Primary School, one of the most elite in Baghdad, is on high alert. Since October 2004, 25 children have been kidnapped from the school, according to local authorities, and all the families involved were obliged to pay ransoms of around $60,000 for their release.

"All the students from our school who have been kidnapped have not returned to continue their current school year and some families have left the country to ensure safety of their children. They are losing out on education due to the poor security inside Iraq," Imman Kubaissy, a teacher at the primary school, told IRIN.

Kubaissy added that there had also been a psychological impact on children who stayed at the school as some were unable to concentrate in lessons in fear that they too could be kidnapped.

Kidnappings of parents are also affecting children. Zaineb Kardish is nine years old. Her father was released only after the payment of $250,000. She told IRIN that she left school after this happened and now stays at home.

Some parents have not been so lucky and have lost their loved ones, even after the payment of a ransom.

Doctor Abdul Jalil’s nine-year-old son was kidnapped, and despite payment of the ransom he was not released. Jalil reported the case to the police who managed to track down the kidnappers. They discovered that his son was killed as he tried to escape and was hit on the head and bled to death. The kidnappers were recently sentenced to 75 years in prison.

"I'm happy that justice has been done, but the authorities need to tackle the poor security in the country to prevent the same thing happening to other children," Jalil told IRIN with tears in his eyes.


Faissal Ali Dosseki, chief of the kidnapping investigation department of the MoI, told IRIN that some cases had ended tragically due to poor organisation and structure inside the country. He added that the poor information sharing and distrust of authorities delayed their work and investigations.

"We don’t have special equipment to facilitate our work, but we are working hard and one of the most difficult things is that families usually don’t inform us of the cases and prefer to solve them by themselves and this is just opening the doors for the criminals," Dosseki added.

A number of factors are making it easy for such kidnapping to take place, according to Dosseki. He explained that mobile phone companies were selling lines without asking for full information from the buyer, giving criminals a chance to use the phone system to make negotiations without being traced.

Dosseki said that during Saddam Hussein's regime there was a person in each district responsible for registering each family or person that moved into the area, and that those who looked suspicious tended to be reported and investigated more rapidly than today.

During the former regime, there were few kidnappings and the only cases registered were resolved - they were usually linked to tribal family disputes and not associated with ransoms or poor security, he said.

Officials from the Coalition forces told IRIN that they had been training special groups with sophisticated new techniques to be used against such criminals, but said that the Iraqi MoI should invest more in this sector.

However, Dosseki said that as families were not sharing cases with them, they could not interfere without their permission and it was just making the situation worse.

"If I had shared the case of my child with the police in the beginning maybe I wouldn’t have lost him. If I can advise parents I would say that it's important to give a chance to the police to bring back their children with safety, even if it looks too dangerous," Jalil said.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance



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