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Cable reference id: #08BAGHDAD3811
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Reference id aka Wikileaks id #181413  ? 
SubjectCountering Hostage-taking In Iraq
OriginEmbassy Baghdad (Iraq)
Cable timeThu, 4 Dec 2008 14:57 UTC
Extras? Comments
Hide header S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 06 BAGHDAD 003811 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/03/2018 TAGS: ASEC [Security], IZ [Iraq], MOPS [Military Operations], PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], PINS [National Security], PTER [Terrorists and Terrorism] SUBJECT: COUNTERING HOSTAGE-TAKING IN IRAQ Classified By: Political Military Minister-Counselor Michael H. Corbin for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) ¶1. (S) SUMMARY. Embassy Baghdad's Office of Hostage Affairs (OHA) has provided critical support to the Embassy and MNF-I in the recovery of hostages captured by a multitude of criminal/insurgent organizations in Iraq. Formed in 2004 as the Hostage Working Group (HWG), OHA has three primary roles: kidnap prevention, hostage recovery, and pursuing justice for the criminals and insurgents who commit these crimes. Within the Embassy, OHA is the lead office on hostage issues, and coordinates the efforts of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other Embassy elements as well as Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I). OHA also coordinates with the Government of Iraq (GOI), including the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Defense, and the Counter Terrorism Bureau. ¶2. (S) The improving security situation in Iraq brings with it a new set of challenges and potential vulnerabilities. As U.S. officials, private entrepreneurs, and non-governmental organization staff expand their operations in Iraq and interact more frequently with the Iraqi population, they will become more susceptible to kidnapers and insurgents seeking easy targets. The USG will continue to need a means to respond should this occur. Moreovoer, Iraq requires a comprehensive approach to mitigate the economic, social, and security impact of kidnapping. This will require involvement and buy-in from the highest levels of the GOI and should involve standing up a dedicated hostage recovery capability within the government. END SUMMARY. Introduction to the Hostage Problem in Iraq ¶3. (SBU) Kidnapping in Iraq for political, sectarian, or financial gain has proven to be an effective technique for insurgent, terrorist and criminal elements since late 2003. Hostage takers have been successfully utilizing kidnappings to fund terrorist and other illicit activities, create civil unrest, erode the legitimacy of the GOI, generate propaganda, garner media attention, and to push for political concessions from non-Western countries. Kidnappings have slowed reconstruction, delayed economic development, and undermined efforts to establish a Rule of Law and restore human rights and civil liberties to the people of Iraq. ¶4. (SBU) According to Iraqi police statistics, before the improved security situation beginning late summer of 2008, 85% of the kidnappings were sectarian in nature; with the stabilizing security environment, the Iraqis believe this has reversed to approximately 85% of kidnappings being criminal in nature. At the height of the kidnapping problem, it is estimated that there were between 40-50 kidnappings a day in the Baghdad area alone. Current estimates for the Baghdad area are between 10-15 kidnappings per month. Statistics for outlying regions vary tremendously depending on the source of the data, definitions utilized by the collecting entity, and trends of community reporting to GOI or Coalition Forces at the time of data collection; reporting such numbers is not a reliable gauge of existing kidnap trends without extensive research and statistical analysis. ¶5. (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) Within the last several months there has been increase in reporting regarding the kidnapping of children. OHA has received reports of four child kidnap events in the past two months, only two of which are known to Qevents in the past two months, only two of which are known to have been resolved successfully. Iraqi police state this is a low-risk, high return venture for the criminal elements and attribute the rapid payment of ransoms to the emotional trauma endure by the hostages, families. Initial ransom demands appear to range from USD 250,000 to USD 100,000 for a child. Of the cases OHA has observed, the ransoms have been negotiated to under USD 20,000 and paid within a two-week period or less. ¶6. (S/NF) Hassan Al Aumari is the most recent American citizen to be kidnapped, in July 2008; the family paid USD 30,000 for his release (the kidnappers originally demanded USD 250,000, but was reduced due to negotiations). The last American kidnapped and still held is Michael Chand, kidnapped August 17, 2007. Mr. Chand,s whereabouts are unknown and the interagency community continues to diligently pursue his safe recovery. How OHA Evolved ¶7. (SBU) In response to a rapidly increasing number of BAGHDAD 00003811 002 OF 006 kidnappings, the Hostage Working Group (HWG) was created at U.S. Embassy Baghdad on an ad hoc basis in April 2004 in an effort to coordinate the U.S. government response to all hostage activities in Iraq. The continuing prevalence of incidents prompted the formalization of the HWG in November 2005 as a COM-led crisis management team comprised of DOS, DOD, and DOJ entities responsible for personnel recovery as outlined in NSPD-12 (United States Citizens Taken Hostage Abroad). In December 2006, the Office of Hostage Affairs was established as a permanent part of the Embassy staffing rather than a temporary working group. ¶8. (SBU) From April 2004 until August 2006, State Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT) personnel were deployed to fill the HWG positions. U.S. Army military reserve officers were deployed on six-month rotations to fill the Director billet beginning in September 2006 through April 2008. From May 2008 until present, Diplomatic Security has assigned a DS Agent to S/CT to fill the position as the Director of the Office of Hostage Affairs (OHA). ¶8. (SBU) According to the Kennedy report, OHA is structured to be comprised of two Foreign Service Officers. Presently, there are discussions underway between S/CT and Diplomatic Security (DS) about which bureau will provide the personnel to staff OHA,s Director position. The Deputy position will continue to be filled through 2009 by a contractor as it has has been since the inception of the HWG. OHA,s Role and Structure ¶10. (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq established the Office of Hostage Affairs to be the primary interface for providing an overview on all hostage matters to his office and senior State Department leadership. OHA is chartered to synchronize interagency collaboration through rapid information and intelligence sharing as well as facilitate diplomatic efforts for the safe and immediate recovery of hostages, and support the role of the Consular section in assisting U.S. citizens and their families. ¶11. (U) In support of the OHA charter, three pillars have been defined for this mission: Prevention of future incidents, Recovery of hostages and Justice for the hostage takers. ¶12. (U) Prevention: OHA personnel provide monthly Hostage Awareness Training (HAT) at U.S. Embassy Baghdad as well as travel throughout Iraq to the 29 Regional Embassy Offices (REOs), Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and Embedded PRTs (EPRTs) to provide HAT training. HAT training consists of a one-hour briefing on the current threat environment, common hostage taker tactics, how to reduce the risk of being taken, how to increase chances of survival in the event of being taken hostage, and a synopsis of USG efforts for recovery. This training has also been provided to members of the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Broadcast Board of Governors (BBG), media professionals, and security corporations operating in Iraq. ¶13. (S/NF) OHA coordinates the conduct of specialized training for the Diplomatic Security (DS) agents and supporting contract staff responsible for the protection and movement of COM personnel. This training is conducted by the Air Force or Army Survival, Escape, Resistance, and Evasion (SERE) specialists and includes High Risk of Isolation (HRI) training and periodic briefings on the means and methods Qtraining and periodic briefings on the means and methods utilized by DOD to contact isolated individuals who are in critical need of recovery assistance. ¶14. (S/NF) Recovery: Immediately upon notification of a kidnapping incident, the Interagency is capable of sending Combined Interagency Personnel Hostage Recovery (CIPHR) team to the REO or PRT nearest to the site of the kidnapping to assist the Battle Space commander in the hostage incident. The CIPHR team is ordinarily comprised of FBI Agents and an OHA representative; a military PR representative from MNF-I is always invited. The CIPHR team provides much needed expertise in direct liaison between the family members of the victim and the USG, as well as directs the negotiation and follow-on investigation as appropriate. The CIPHR team lead coordinates the recovery and acts as a conduit of information between the MND and the elements at MNF-I and US Embassy. ¶15. (SBU) Additionally, OHA leads the interagency effort to engage with Provincial and local police and elected officials BAGHDAD 00003811 003 OF 006 to elicit information regarding hostage cases through one-on-one meetings and by addressing the District Advisory Councils, as appropriate. ¶16. (S) Recovery operations, for the purpose of this cable, can be categorized under two primary responses: hasty (rescue) and deliberate (recovery). Hasty operations involve a actions initiated from the initial report of abduction until the time at which a) the military commander has exercised all options and has no further recourse for an immediate rescue, or b) the Crisis Action Team (CAT) reviews an abduction report and determines that sufficient time has passed since the individual has gone missing to negate the positive results potentially gained by utilizing quick reaction forces. Deliberate recovery responses include all activities that extend beyond the period of a hasty rescue response. ¶17. (S/NF) OHA coordinates closely with PRD for all military involvement in response activities, whether hasty or deliberate. Hasty response activities aimed at an immediate rescue are normally conducted by the respective multi-national division (MND) commander where the hostage has been reported missing. Deliberate recovery operations, which require development of intelligence targets and investigative leads, are normally supported by the MNDs but often times exceed their capacity for support due to other on-going operational demands. In certain cases, targeted operations are executed by Task Force or CJSOTF elements. Rescue attempts involving individuals under POI status have been conducted previously in conjunction with Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), under the supervision of CJSOTF, and in coordination with the MND elements. ¶18. (S/NF) Justice: OHA supports the FBI and the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) in the pursuit of justice against those involved in kidnapping. Through sharing of case information with US LNOs to the CCCI, OHA facilitates the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of kidnappings against Americans, foreign nationals and Iraqi citizens. For example, in July 2008, as permitted by Iraqi law in the case of first-time convictions for kidnappers, the leader of the kidnapping cell responsible for the kidnapping of the Chaldean Archbishop received the death penalty for his involvement in the crime. OHA, CCCI, and the Chaldean Church worked closely prior to the conviction to ensure the investigative judge had all information available to conduct a fair trial. ¶19. (C) One of the key responsibilities of OHA is recommending to the Ambassador nominations for "Person of Interest" (POI) status. A standing Interagency Memorandum of Understanding for Personnel Recovery in Iraq allows for the DCM to designate anyone outside of the current mandate as a POI. This status is nominated through OHA to the DCM and presented to the Commanding General MNF-I to request interagency authority to utilize the full force of military assets to recovery an individual. All American citizens, CF military members, U.S. contractors, Diplomats, NATO, UN and EU members will receive POI status. (Note: Current DoD policy authorizes the utilization of all military assets to recover DoD contractors or civilians accompanying the force, but does not explicitly and directly address those Americans not affiliated with DoD who thus fall outside the mandated responsibility of DoD for recovery. Augmenting MOAs and Qresponsibility of DoD for recovery. Augmenting MOAs and MOUs have attempted to clarify this discrepancy, but changes have not yet been reflected in policy changes. End Note.) Iraqi Agencies, Role in Combating Hostage Taking ¶20. (SBU) The GOI organizations currently responsible for hostage recovery in Iraq fall under two Ministries: Ministry of Interior (MOI) for investigations and Ministry of Defense for action or rescue operations. ¶21. (SBU) The Iraqi Police (IP), which fall under the MOI, are responsible for responding to the initial report of a kidnap event involving Iraqi citizens. If the local IP station lacks capability or is inadequately staffed to respond, the senior ranking member of the station may opt to request assistance from the Baghdad Operations Center (BOC), in Baghdad Province or, in outlying provinces, from the Provincial Chief of Police. This, however, is not a commonly exercised practice. More often than not the kidnapping is resolved through tribal negotiations and payment of ransom by the family. BAGHDAD 00003811 004 OF 006 ¶22. (SBU) High profile kidnapping cases in Iraq, and the majority of kidnapping cases in Baghdad, are handled by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) Criminal Investigative Division (CID). The primary interface to the MOI CID is the FBI Legal Attache (Legat). In the event OHA receives a report of an Iraqi citizen being kidnapped and the individual does not receive POI status, the case is passed through the Legat to the MOI CID for investigation and resolution. ¶23. (S/NF) The MOI CID has a special unit for rescue operations involving kidnappings, the Emergency Response Unit (ERU). The ERU has been plagued with problems of corruption and political power plays and is not assessed by OHA to be a fully-capable response or action arm at this time. ¶24. (S/NF) The MOD has developed an action arm capable of conducting recovery operations which falls under the CTB and is comprised of Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), mentored and assisted by U.S. Special Forces Advisors. The Interagency is established a good working relationship and is impressed with ISOF,s rescue capability which provides an Iraqi face to the force and is overseen by U.S. Special Forces advisors. ¶25. (S/NF) The GOI does not have a national policy office nor designated points of contact for international or domestic kidnapping matters, though the default contact in the past has been the National Security Advisor for high-profile and select international cases. Without such an office, OHA has become the central point of contact for foreign governments, dignitaries, diplomats, and family members seeking resolution to the kidnapping of their citizens. UNSCR 1511 allowed for the USG, through OHA, to provide recovery assistance to many of the aforementioned under the auspices of maintaining security and stability in Iraq. As the UNSCR expires, USG ability to assist and respond will be markedly limited in scope; and the GOI still does not have the capacity to respond independently. Interagency Personnel Recovery (PR) in Iraq ¶26. (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) JIAPRWG. The Joint Inter Agency Personnel Recovery Working Group (JIAPRWG) is the Embassy personnel recovery community forum for case coordination and information sharing. The JIAPRWG is comprised of multiple DOD and COM entities with responsibilities for intelligence, law enforcement, and political support to personnel recovery. The primary partners to OHA within the JIAPRWG are the FBI and the MNF-I Personnel Recovery Division (MNF-I CJ3 PRD). The JIAPRWG convenes a meeting bi-weekly to discuss current issues and review case developments. ¶27. (C) The FBI. OHA and the FBI coordinate daily regarding current American citizen cases. As legislated by NSPD-12, the FBI is the lead agency for all activities related to the collection of evidence, development and implementation of negotiation strategies, the conduct of investigations, and in conducting forensics as relates to the recovery of kidnapped American citizens abroad. The FBI advises the members of the JIAPRWG on current negotiation strategies and guides private negotiating parties concerning negotiation techniques as needed. ¶28. (C) The FBI hostage recovery efforts in Iraq are overseen by the Legat office and augmented by FBI Baghdad Operations Center (BOC) Hostage Working Group (HWG). The Legat works directly with the Iraq Ministry of Interior QLegat works directly with the Iraq Ministry of Interior Criminal Investigative Division (MOI CID). FBI Special Agents on temporary duty assignment to the BOC lead the investigative effort for resolution of American citizen cases. ¶29. (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) PRD. The Personnel Recovery Division (MNF-I CJ3 PRD) is OHA,s primary interface with DOD personnel recovery components. PRD is the central repository for all intelligence information in Iraq regarding current and past hostage cases, and serves as the COM link to DOD hasty and deliberate recovery assets in the event of a kidnapping. Through the PRD, OHA is able to submit requests for intelligence information, obtain access to detainee interview reports, facilitate transfer of suspects from Iraqi to Coalition Forces custody, and coordinate targeted information operations campaigns aimed at those believed to have information regarding hostages or hostage takers. PRD is located at the Victory Base Complex adjacent to the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). BAGHDAD 00003811 005 OF 006 ¶30. (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) Outside of PRD, the principle components of the military PR architecture in Iraq are the USCENTCOM Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC) in the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC), Al Udied Air Base (AUAB); the MNC-I Personnel Recovery Coordination Center (PRCC), Camp Victory, Iraq; Recovery Coordination Center (RCC,s) at each Major Subordinate Command (MSC) throughout the theater. The respective functions of each of these PR nodes can be referenced in MNF-I Fragmentary Order 08-120. ¶31. (SBU) RSO. The Regional Security Office (RSO) supports OHA efforts through the prioritization of air and ground security assets in response to a kidnap incident. OHA works closely with the RSO Intelligence and Investigations Unit on a daily basis regarding threats to individuals, regional and location specific threat assessments, as well as on individual kidnap cases. ¶32. (SBU) Consular Affairs is responsible for notification of an abduction or recovery to the family members of American citizens through American Citizen Services (ACS). The existing MOU between FBI and DOS requires that once an investigation has been initiated into an American citizen kidnapping, all interaction with the family will be coordinated through the FBI,s Office of Victim's Assistance (OVA) at FBI Headquarters. ¶33. (SBU) OPA. OHA coordinates with the Embassy's Office of Provincial Affairs (OPA) prior to any travel to the PRTs and EPRTs. OPA desk officers are able to provide atmospherics of their region and assist in setting meetings with the appropriate GOI members for specific engagements. OHA personnel travel regularly to the PRTs and EPRTs to provide HAT training, engage with local tribal and government members, and as needed, to support newly reported hostage cases. ¶34. (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) CCCI/TF134. The primary conduit for information regarding detainees awaiting trial and the prosecution of those involved in kidnapping cases is through MNF-I's Task Force 134 (Detainee Operations) to the Central Criminal Courts of Iraq. OHA works closely with TF134 LNOs to support their prosecutorial efforts, as well as to obtain additional information at the request of our interagency and international partners. ¶35. (S/NF) OHA works with our Intelligence community partners formulate approaches for engagements, develop negotiation strategies in conjunction with the FBI, and facilitate information collection in support of persistent and new cases. ¶36. (SBU) The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT) sets Department policy for hostage response worldwide and provides oversight to the Office of Hostage Affairs for all kidnap incidents in Iraq. Additionally S/CT represents DOS equities at the NSC in regards to nation policy on interagency activities during a hostage incident. The Director of OHA currently reports to and receives operational and program guidance from S/CT. ¶36. (SBU) The Diplomatic Security International Programs Office of Special Projects (DS/IP/OSP) has recently been given a greater purview for the training, prevention, and response to kidnap incidents worldwide. This is an evolving responsibility within DS IP/OSP, and currently incorporates the Rewards For Justice program as well as oversight for funding of information operations through the military information support team (MIST). Q Major Challenges ¶38. (SBU) There are multiple challenges to locating, recovering, and returning our kidnapped Americans to their rightful homes, the most significant of which is the lack of host nation law enforcement capacity to partner with for response and investigative actions. This is compounded by the tenuous security situation and non-permissive environments in which investigations, site exploitations, and travel must be conducted in order to obtain more information and locate the hostages. The high turnover rate of personnel also contributes to the lack of corporate knowledge and often times leads to interagency partners attempting a second or third time to implement policies or procedures which have been demonstrated as ineffective previously. BAGHDAD 00003811 006 OF 006 Exacerbating the entire situation is the minimal visibility we have over how many Americans are currently in country, where they are working or living, and the inability to assess their current security profile. Expectations for the Future ¶39. (SBU) The general security situation in Iraq has become safer in recent months with a marked decrease in violence, but that does not make the country altogether safe. As stability, or the perception thereof, increases so will the travel of softer target civilians throughout the country. These individuals include businesspersons, tourists, NGOs, and dual-nationality citizens returning for family visits, who are not adhering to the security postures observed by the majority of Americans present in Iraq over recent years. The coinciding increased movement through unknown territories, reduced security measures, continued need of criminal and insurgent groups to finance their activities, and the tenuous security situation has the very real potential of parlaying into an increase of kidnappings in the future. ¶40. (SBU) Criminal elements are known to look for easy targets of opportunity. Iraqi Americans returning to visit their families or conduct business, NGO workers, those starting new business ventures and tourists are particularly vulnerable to this type of kidnapping. The best mitigation to this threat is to encourage increased personal security awareness, and provide threat-specific training to COM-affiliated personnel. ¶41. (S/NF) The Department does not have a reintegration policy for American citizens recovered by the USG requiring separation of the victim from the targeted area for a specified duration. As such, once successfully recovered an American citizen can return to the same hostile environment from which he or she was taken, as was seen in the case of Hassan Al Aumari. In the future this could mean repeated recovery operations being conducted for the same individual. ¶42. (SBU) The Kurdistan region has seen a sharp increase in the amount of tourism to its area. Although violence is far lower in this region and development is expansive, this does not mitigate the risk to tourists who are prone to go off the beaten path, such as those who have been seen venturing into the mountainous countryside. Open press recently reported that a group of tourists, after their visit to the Kurdistan region, hired their own Personnel Security Detail (PSD) to travel to other parts of Iraq to visit the religious and cultural sites. In a post-UNSCR environment such PSDs will not be able to fight off an attack by kidnappers without serious legal repercussions. ¶43. (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) Depending on the political environment at any given time, the potential exists as demonstrated by past events, for systematic targeting of Iraqi and foreign dignitaries for kidnapping. Targeting distinguished persons would significantly raise the stakes with respect to political, diplomatic or economic concessions. The GOI does not have the capacity to adequately respond or assist the USG with such kidnap cases. ¶44. (SBU) Iraq requires a comprehensive approach to mitigate the economic, social, and security impact of kidnapping. This will require involvement and buy-in from the highest levels of the GOI to stand up a dedicated hostage recovery capability within the government. The entity responsible Qcapability within the government. The entity responsible needs to address lingering cultural indifference to kidnapping, prevention and threat mitigation for foreigners and Iraqi citizens alike, investigative resources, immediate response capabilities, and the requirement to see that hostage takers are beholden to Iraqi law. If this capacity is not built, kidnapping in Iraq will continue to be a serious threat to the rule of law in Iraq, undermining the faith of the Iraqi people in their government and their security forces. CROCKER



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