‘If they pay we kill them anyway’ – the kidnapper’s story
Saturday January 27, 2007
Fadhel is a slim, well-muscled 26-year-old Mahdi Army commander with a thin goatee beard and smoothed down hair that looks like a flat cap. One day last month he described how he and his men seized a group of three Sunni men suspected of killing his fellow Shia. “I followed the group for weeks and then one of them crossed the bridge to Karrada [a Shia district]. We first informed a nearby Iraqi army checkpoint that we were arresting terrorists then we attacked them and put them in the boots of the cars. We only have six to seven minutes when we grab someone – we have to act quickly, if he resists we shoot him.”
In this case, he said, the men were taken to Sadr City, the Shia slum to the north-east of Baghdad, where they were interrogated by a “committee” which ordered their execution. “We ask the families of the terrorists for ransom money,” said Fadhel. “And after they pay the ransom we kill them anyway.”
Kidnapping in Baghdad these days is as much about economics as retribution or sectarian hatred. Another Shia man close to the Mahdi Army told me: “They kidnap 10 Sunnis, they get ransom on five, and kill them all, in each big kidnap operation they make at least $50 000, it’s the best business in Baghdad.”
One day as we chatted in a small squatters’ community to the east of Baghdad, Fadhel showed me his badge – a square laminated card that identified him as a “Amer Faseel” or “platoon commander” in charge of a unit of around 35 fighters. He is particularly valuable to the Shia militia because he grew up in a predominantly Sunni area south of Baghdad and still has an ID card registered in the Sunni town of Yossufiya. “I can speak in their accent, so I can come and go to Sunni areas without anyone knowing that I am a Shia.”
It was these qualifications plus his military experience – he was a corporal in the Iraqi military police – that earned Fadhel the role of commanding a “strike unit”. His main job is kidnapping Sunnis allegedly involved in attacking Shia areas. It is men like Fadhel, responsible for the scores of bodies dumped on Baghdad’s streets daily, whom the US troops pouring into Baghdad will have to bring under control if they are to have any hope of quelling the city’s civil war.
Read the rest here.