BAQUBA - Amid the violence and chaos in Diyala province, kidnappings continue
unabated, bringing an uncertain fate for the abducted and unanswered questions
for their families.
Kidnapping has become another form of violence, to add to car bombs, assassinations,
displacement, theft, threats, and air strikes.
And kidnapping itself is carried out in all sorts of ways: taking someone from
their home at night, from office during the day, in plain sight of civilians
and police officers on the street, at false check points, or stopping the car
to abduct the person.
Families of those kidnapped are left without knowing who took their loved one,
or where the person might have been taken. Panic sets in. Families try to find
someone in a position of influence who could help, but usually no one can.
If the person kidnapped is a policeman, member of the Iraqi National Guard
(ING) or a translator for the U.S. military, he is usually killed immediately.
When a civilian is kidnapped and a couple of weeks pass without a ransom demand,
families begin the painful process of checking the local morgue repeatedly.
"When they kill a prisoner, they may drop him in the street as a sign
of challenge to the government, or they select a place to be their execution
zone," Hussam Nasir, a resident of Baquba (30 mi. northeast of Baghdad),
whose brother was kidnapped told IPS. "After they leave this place, a police
patrol comes to move the body to the morgue. In the morgue, two pictures are
taken from reverse angles to be kept in the computer."
Nasir knows what that can be like. "These pictures are shown to those
who come to ask about their relatives. The dead cannot be identified easily
because their faces are usually decomposed or exploded, but I knew my brother's
face when I saw it."
Thamir Niama, whose brother was detained several months ago, also went through
pictures at the morgue.
"When I saw the pictures of my brother, the body had been dressed in an
ING uniform even though he is not a member of the ING. When he was abducted,
he was wearing a tracksuit. The gangs who do these things make a video tape
of the execution in order to get paid for it."
Salim Kadhim from the Qatoun quarter of the city told IPS that his nephew disappeared
en route from northern Iraq to Diyala province.
"We received a phone call from a person saying that they had detained
our nephew and he would be killed," Kadhim told IPS. Kadhim said he managed
to talk with someone in the group involved in the kidnapping. "I was told
to never ask about our nephew, and after several days we found the body in the
There have been so many kidnappings in Baquba that it is almost a relief to
find bodies in the morgue, so they may receive a proper burial.
Halima Jasib, whose brother was kidnapped, told IPS that he spoke with a "middleman"
for the people who detained his brother. He was asked for a ransom of $20,000.
"We managed to raise the money from friends and relatives who donated
generously," Jasib said. "But the middleman took the money, and it's
five months, and there is no news of my brother. Now we are sure that he was
thrown in the Diyala river or buried in the farms."
Every week now officials in Baquba find groups of bodies buried in farm areas
around the city.
There is no informed estimate of how many Iraqis are missing nationwide, but
scores are kidnapped daily, and stories of abductions seem endless.
"Our 23-year-old son was a policeman in the directorate-general of police,"
Mahmood al-Rubai'i told IPS. "One day, while he was coming home after work,
a car blocked his way and the men in it took him and his car with them."
Two days after the abduction Rubai'i received a phone call demanding $15,000.
He sold a piece of land, and his younger son took the money to the designated
"He dropped the money in a garbage barrel and returned home hoping they
would release our son as promised," Rubai'i told IPS. "We hoped to
see our son during the first week after giving the money, but it has been more
than six months, and we have no sign he is still alive."