November 03, 2006

Al-Taei Kidnapping Motive: Ransom?

According to Time:

A kidnapping ring has demanded a $250,000 ransom from the family of the U.S. soldier abducted in Iraq, a suspiciously low sum that his family worries could be a sign that he is no longer alive.

The Pentagon Thursday confirmed for the first time that Specialist Ahmed al-Taie, a Michigan National Guardsman assigned to the Provincial Reconstruction Team Baghdad, has been "unaccounted for" since Oct. 23 at 4:30pm; he is currently listed as "duty status whereabouts unknown." Family members of the 41-year-old Iraqi-American from Ann Arbor, Mich. say he was nabbed by a gang claiming to be from the Mahdi Army while he was on an unauthorized trip outside the fortified Green Zone to visit his wife in Baghdad.

The ransom demand for al-Taie was relayed earlier this week to al-Taie's uncle Entifad Qanbar, a former spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress and recently an official in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. Qanbar described to TIME the complicated negotiations he has been engaged in on behalf of the family and in close coordination with the U.S.-led Hostage Working Group, a task force in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad made up of specialists from multiple U.S. agencies and the military.

Reading the Time story leave one with the impression that the kidnapping was done purely as a criminal exercise.

We have the option of accepting that at face value, but kidnapping an American serviceman would seem to be an extremely risky enterprise for a group merely interested in profit. Whereas the kidnapping of Iraqi civilians leads to only an Iraqi police response (if that), the kidnapping of al-Taei led to a massive military-led recovery effort that has at least 3,000 American and Iraqi soldiers conducting area sweeps and house-to-house searches, a response that most criminal kidnappers would understandably shy away from.

Kidnapping for ransom is a not uncommon practice throughout the developing world, and is increasingly common in regards to the kidnapping of Iraqis for political or criminal means, but it is comparatively rare for foreigners to be kidnapped for ransom, and the al-Taei kidnapping, if a criminal exercise, would be the first kidnapping of an American soldier in an attempt to turn a profit since the war began.

It simply seems doubtful that an experienced kidnapping gang would take such risks for such a comparatively small reward. Politics, hidden behind a veil of base criminal motivation, still seems to be the most likely reason to kidnap such a high-profile target.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 3, 2006 12:00 PM | TrackBack