U.S. frees kidnappers to spy on Iraqi fighters

U.S. frees kidnappers to spy on Iraqi fighters

20-03-2005

Aljazeera.com

A media report revelas that American intelligence and military police officers in Iraq are routinely freeing dangerous criminals in return for a promise to spy on anti-occupation fighters.

According to the Independent on Sunday (IoS) documents show that in one case police rescued a doctor after a gun battle with his kidnappers and arrested two of the kidnap gang, who made full confessions. But the U.S. military police took over custody of the two men and let them go.

At the police station where the men were being held, it was recorded that they’d been handed over to an American military police lieutenant in order to be transferred to the American run Camp Cuervo detention centre.

However, an American military spokesman told the IoS that there was no record of the two prisoners in their database.

"The Americans are allowing the breakdown of Iraqi society because they are only interested in fighting the ’insurgency’," said a senior Iraqi police officer.

"We are dealing with an epidemic of kidnapping, extortion and violent crime, but even though we know the Americans monitor calls on mobiles and satellite phones, which are often used in ransom negotiations, they will not pass on any criminal intelligence to us. They only want to use the information against ’insurgents’."

An Iraqi government source further confirmed that criminal suspects were often released if they agreed to pass on information on "insurgents", despite the dangers such an act poses on them.

The Iraqi middle class has been heavily targeted by kidnappers since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Many doctors, a favoured target, and businessmen have fled to Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The police admit that they have been unable to do anything to stop the wave of abductions.

Dr Thamir Mohammed Ali Hasafa al-Kaisey, a 60-year-old GP, was seized by a gang of 11 kidnappers as he drove home from his clinic in Baghdad in the early evening of December 23rd.

"I was 50 metres from my house when men with guns in a Jeep Cherokee stopped me and beat me with their fists," Dr Hasafa later told police. "They put me in their car with my face on the ground and tied me up with my own jacket."

But the doctor had an extraordinary stroke of luck. His captors ran into a police checkpoint, and shooting broke out. Even though his leg was broken in the beating, the doctor was able to crawl out of the back of the car.

The case was a rare breakthrough for the police. In their confessions the two suspects - one a serving police lieutenant - highlighted how the gangs work and the increasingly high number of kidnappings they carry out.

Mohammed Najim Abdullah al-Dhouri, the police lieutenant, and Adnan Ashur Ali al-Jabouri are both members of powerful tribes from which Saddam drew many of his inner circle of security men and army officers.

Adnan Ashur told the investigating judge that the leaders of the gang were Eyhab, nicknamed Abu Fahad, who ran a mobile phone shop, and his brother, Hisham.

According to Ashur, Eyhab was a criminal sentenced to 40 years in jail by the old regime but that he’d apparently been freed during a general amnesty by Saddam at the end of 2002.

All the gang members were armed with pistols. They had safe houses in which to keep kidnap victims. Both suspects said they had taken part in numerous other kidnappings in the previous few months, with their victims paying up to $60,000 (£31,000) each.

In the case of Dr. Hasafa, the gang has been informed of his ’worth’ as a kidnap target by a guard hired by householders to protect the street where he lived.

The Iraqi police were jubilant that they finally had detailed information on how a kidnap gang operated. The two captured men were willing to provide the names and addresses of other gang members, and the success was lauded by Iraqi television and the local press.

But to the bitter disappointment of the police on December 30th a convoy of U.S. military police arrived at al-Khansa police station, where Najim and Ashur were being held. The Iraqi police officer at the station recorded : "They have requested the custody of the two assailants."

The Iraqi police dropped the case against the rest of the gang.