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Foreigners A Choice Kidnap Target In Iraq

About 20,000 people, nearly half of them women and children, have been kidnapped throughout the country in the fifteen weeks since the beginning of the year, according to a survey conducted by several local NGOs.

"The recent increase in violence has led to the formation of hundreds of new criminal gangs with different aims," said Ahmed Barak, a volunteer for the Iraqi Aid Association. "Some of the kidnappings are related to sectarian violence and others are the work of extortionists looking for ransom." The study concluded that, despite numerous instances driven by pecuniary motivations, sectarian violence was the prime cause of the recent increase in kidnapping.

Government officials, however, have suggested that the numbers cited in the report are exaggerated. "It's true that, since the bombing of a major Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in February, sectarian violence has spread countrywide," said Major Hassan Fadhel, a senior police officer in the capital, Baghdad. "But the number of those kidnapped is fewer than that suggested by the survey."

Interior ministry sources agreed with this assessment. "We haven't registered these kinds of numbers," said Faissal Ali Dosseki, chief of the ministry's kidnap investigation department. "But we have to admit that kidnappings have increased dramatically, and urgent action is needed to overcome the phenomenon."

Dosseki noted that most kidnapping gangs were of local origin, and usually after ransom money. He added, however, that foreign elements were often involved in sectarian-related kidnappings. According to Dosseki, these are generally foreign Arabs who have come to Iraq to join the anti-US resistance although security forces claim that most of these have been apprehended.

The list of the 125 NGOs which reportedly conducted the survey has not been released. But, according to official sources, they include several large humanitarian organizations operating in Iraq, especially in the southern regions.

About 70,000 Iraqis have been displaced due to the sectarian violence that has wracked the country since the February Samarra bombing.

© IRIN   [Integrated Regional Information Networks is a project the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]

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Albion Monitor   April 20, 2006   (

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