Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Salhiya mass abduction.

perhaps one of the most shocking security incidents that took the headlines inside and outside Iraq was the one when gunmen dressed in military uniforms riding police-like vehicles seized 50 men in Salhiya district in central western Baghdad a couple of days ago.

The common first reaction after reading the news reports was one of astonishment by the exceptionally challenging nature of this operation as the operation took place in the center of the capital in a supposedly well guarded area and in broad day light but as we dig deeper into the circumstances of the incident, it looks like this case can be more complex than we thought it was in the beginning.

I had a long conversation with some of my friends on this particular case and tried to analyze some of its sides using the little knowledge and analysis skill we have.

What we found basically suggests that the raid could've possibly been conducted by government forces and not terrorists, yet not by the regular government forces.
In other words he suggests that a security corps not related to the defense or interior ministries was possibly behind the raid in an attempt form the government (or some other entity) to find "shortcuts" for eliminating terror cells in Baghdad without having to go through courts and time-consuming police investigations and paperwork.

The nature of the target and the scene and timing of the operation supports this theory in a way; most drivers and workers in travel agencies are from areas through which the road to Jordan and Syria passes through, i.e. they belong to Arab Sunni tribes and have secured some sort of a treaty with influential powers in that region and they use this advantage to pass back and forth safely through this dangerous long highway. These drivers are the only ones capable of doing this right now after many Shia drivers were killed on the road by al-Qaeda or local insurgent groups. Moreover, there were 2 Syrian nationals among those 50 men.

This leads to conclusion #1: Those kidnapped/arrested probably had ties with local insurgents and/or al-Qaeda in Iraq, especially in the western region of the country.

The idea that it's a death squad operation is unlikely for one reason; the location and time at which the operation took place indicate that the raiders were confident and fearless, and the scale of the operation and the magnitude of the raiding force indicates that high ranking officers know about it and if these officers are corrupt and running death squads they will be expected to not mess with the other wing of the insurgency (I'm talking about operations organized at commanders level who receive direct or indirect orders from Syria or Iran). I realize that many people still find it hard to believe that Syria-backed al-Qaeda and Sunni extremists are working side by side with Iran-backed death squads. And whether the trigger pullers know this or not isn't of value here but I'm positive that commanders on both sides know who their allies are.

This leads to conclusion #2: If Iran is behind death squads in Iraq (which is what most of us believe to be the case) then Iran and death squads were not behind this one and it wasn't an operation motivated by sectarian tensions.

In short, it is quite possible that this operation was conducted by an independent security corps taking orders directly from the president, PM or US military to strike a particular target quickly and without the hassle of traditional justice…a legitimate force, maybe a special counter-terrorism force or one belonging to the Iraqi intelligence/military intelligence service but performing operations in a dirty (yet effective) way, capturing suspects, forcefully interrogating them and executing those found guilty and releasing those found innocent.

The fact that 13 of the 50 were released last night and found by the police in Baghdad supports this theory to some extent. Those 13 men were found alive but had torture marks on their bodies.

A death squad or a terror cell wouldn't have spared any.

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