Tuesday, November 16, 2004
A curious hostage release
Juan Cole commented that
In Iraqi society, PM Allawi is responsible for protecting his clan, including especially his first cousins, so this kidnapping makes him look weak and brings substantial shame on him.
The kidnappers identified themselves as a heretofore unknown group Ansar al-Jihad. They demanded an end of the attack on Fallujah and release of prisoners within 48 hours or they would behead their prisoners.
On Sunday al-Jazeera reported that the two women had been released. An AP story in India's The Statesman says the release was confirmed by "an Allawi spokesman who declined to be named" who said (rather curtly, it seems) "Yes, yes, the two women were released yesterday." The women were released in Baqouba, which is one of the cities under fire.
This seems strangely out of the pattern of kidnappings that have taken place in Iraq. Generally a release means that some kind of payment has been made in exchange for the hostages. But this group, both by its name and by its demands, did not seem to be of the sort seeking ransom.
This may be one of those stories whose details we'll never know, because if Allawi did ransom the women, it's a double or triple embarrassment for him—that under his government they were kidnapped in the first place, that his forces were not able to free them, and that he paid ransom to enemy insurgents.
There's still no word on the fate of Allawi's cousin.