The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has received a report that unspecified militia leaders have discussed plans for kidnapping U.S. citizens attending the 45th Baghdad International Fair, scheduled for November 10-19, 2018.

The militia leaders’ discussion included concealment techniques and ways of connecting the kidnappings to other entities with whom the militias possibly disagree with politically.  The Embassy has no further information regarding the timing, target, or method of any planned actions.

The Embassy goes on the advise people to avoid the Baghdad International Fair.

(Source: U.S. Embassy in Baghdad)

U.S. Embassy Baghdad is aware of reports of increased threats of attacks in Baghdad during the Eid Al-Adha holiday.

In response, the U.S. Embassy has restricted movement of its employees from September 1 – 5 outside of the international zone in Baghdad.

In addition, the U.S. Embassy is restricting movement of its employees on September 11 outside of the international zone in Baghdad as a precaution given a possible heightened risk of attack on this anniversary.

As a reminder, U.S. citizens should maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance their personal security at all times when living and working in Iraq.

Please review the “Iraq Travel Warning” posted on the U.S. State Department’s website:  http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/iraq-travel-warning.html, and remember that U.S. citizens remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence in Iraq.

For further information:

  • See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Iraq Country Specific Information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, located on Al-Kindi Street, International Zone, Baghdad, at 0770 443-1286 (+964 770-443-1286 from outside Iraq) 24 hours a day to report an emergency, and 0760-030-4400 (+964 760-030-4400) for pre-recorded information regarding services for U.S. citizens.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

(Source: U.S. Embassy)

U.S. Embassy Baghdad is aware of reports of threats to target U.S. government officials and other civilians for kidnapping.

In response, the U.S. Embassy has temporarily restricted movement of its employees outside of the international zone in Baghdad, as well as outside of U.S. Consulate Basrah.

As a reminder, U.S. citizens should maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance their personal security at all times when living and working in Iraq.

Please review the “Iraq Travel Warning” posted on the U.S. State Department’s website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/iraq-travel-warning.html, and remember that U.S. citizens remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence in Iraq.

For further information:

  • See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Iraq Country Specific Information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, located on Al-Kindi Street, International Zone, Baghdad, at 0770 443-1286  (+964 770-443-1286 from outside Iraq) 24 hours a day to report an emergency, and 0760-030-4400 (+964 760-030-4400) for pre-recorded information regarding services for U.S. citizens.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

(Source: U.S. Embassy Baghdad)

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Crime Wave Targets Baghdad Doctors, Whose Only Choice Is To Emigrate

Last week, unknown assailants broke into the medical clinic of Iraqi doctor, Salim Abdul-Hamzah, in the Maamel neighbourhood of Baghdad.

In other parts of Baghdad, two doctors were kidnapped: Mohammed Ali Zayer who works in a hospital in the Sadr City area and Saad Abdul Hur who had a private clinic in the New Baghdad neighbourhood.

In the same week, a dentist, Shatha Faleh, was killed in a medical centre in the Washwash area.All of the above happened within the space of just one week in Baghdad. No wonder Iraqi doctors are worried.

“The recent crime wave targeting Iraqi doctors is catastrophic for the country,” Jasib al-Hajami, a senior official in the Baghdad health department, told NIQASH.

“The doctors and medical staff are the real wealth of our country and these crimes targeting them will push medical professionals out of Iraq. In fact, many of them have migrated or are thinking about migrating. More efforts must be made to protect them.”

On June 25, doctors in Baghdad and in other parts of the country organised sit-ins inside their local hospitals to protest the crime wave that appeared aimed at them and their colleagues. Their banners called upon the Ministry of Health to offer them better protection and the individuals protesting also warned of a decrease in the number of trained professionals in Iraq.

Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior says they have started to investigate the incidents and they announced the arrest of members of eight different gangs that they say were involved in the kidnap or murder of Baghdad medical professionals.

By Omar al-Jaffal for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

On May 8, in al-Batawin area in central Baghdad, gunmen stormed into the apartment of civil activists who have been advocating for political reform for two years. The gunmen captured seven activists, mostly students, and took them to an unknown location.

The increase of armed groups’ attacks on civilians has sparked fear in Iraqi society, and activists are calling on the government to work on releasing their colleagues immediately and to arrest the kidnappers.

The activists were indeed released two days after their abduction, but the perpetrators have yet to be arrested. The Iraqi government and the Ministry of Interior remain silent on the identity of the criminals.

Yet the minister of interior announced the release of the kidnapped activists himself, and his media adviser talked about “intensive operations by the minister” to return the kidnapped to their homes. The adviser, however, did not name the perpetrators, saying that they will be identified later on. This has yet to happen.

This incident raised once again concerns about the ease of movement of armed groups in Iraq’s cities and questioned the ability of the security forces within residential areas to protect Iraqis.

In another incident, the security forces wrongly arrested five young men in Karbala governorate on charges of “hanging around” — an offense that is not found in the Iraqi law. One of the arrested men was killed in the detention center on May 5, and the victim’s family accused the police of Karbala of torture. The police denied the charges.

Social media users have made a link between the two incidents, accusing the security forces of being unable to capture the true culprits who are terrorizing Iraqi cities, while arresting young men on petty charges such as congregating in small groups.

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Officials in Baghdad agree crime is on the rise there, though they differ on the causes and offer little in the way of hard statistics to back up their claims.

Baghdad’s criminal court announced Jan. 17 that many areas in the capital have witnessed a significant increase in cases of kidnapping, theft, pickpocketing and robberies recently, stressing that organized gangs are behind some of these crimes. Examining Magistrate Alaa Abdullah said, “Palestine Street, in the center of Baghdad, came first in terms of registered crimes at the court during the current year, with more than 31 reported cases.”

Officials fear that kidnappings in particular are affecting investments in Iraq. The kidnappings have become a threat to businesses, their employees and their investors. This could lead businesses to move to other Iraqi cities that are seen as safer, or to leave or avoid the country altogether.

In one recent case, Haidar Hassoun, general manager of the Iraqi Media Foundation, was the victim of an attempted kidnapping Jan. 2 in northern Baghdad.

On Dec. 16, Ali Sajjad al-Khafaji, 14, was on his way home from school in the upscale Karrada area in central Baghdad when four people in a four-wheel-drive vehicle snatched him from the street. Although the family of the kidnapped youth paid a ransom of $41,000 to the kidnappers, their son’s body was found Dec. 23 dumped in the Tigris River. He had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death.

Some gangs hire a person called “Al-Allas,” which means a bounty hunter. This person’s mission is to provide the names and details of wealthy individuals or families to gang members. Gangs ask for ransoms, but often end up killing the victims anyway.

The U.S. Embassy Baghdad has received reports of attempts to kidnap U.S. citizen nongovernmental organization staff riding in vehicle convoys to provide aid to Mosul, Iraq.

Militants demanded to see passports for all travelers in convoys and searched specifically for U.S. citizens.

As a reminder, U.S. citizens should maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance their personal security at all times when living and working in Iraq.

Please review the “Iraq Travel Warning” posted on the U.S. State Department’s website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/iraq-travel-warning.html, and remember that U.S. citizens remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence in Iraq.

For further information:

  • See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Iraq Country Specific Information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, located on Al-Kindi Street, International Zone, Baghdad, at 0770 443-1286 (+964 770-443-1286 from outside Iraq) 24 hours a day to report an emergency, and 0760-030-4400 (+964 760-030-4400) for pre-recorded information regarding services for U.S. citizens.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

(Source: Embassy of the United States)

By Wassim Bassem for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

The Baghdad Operations Command announced the release of two kidnapped children from southern Baghdad on Aug. 20. The crime itself was no surprise, as the abduction of children has become a serious and common social problem in Iraq.

This summer, a UN report confirmed that 1,496 Iraqi children have been abducted during the past 36 months and few have been seen again. In one rare case, on Aug. 3, a kidnapped child was released from captivity and his kidnapper arrested in Baghdad.

Poor Iraqi families have been calling for help since June in Basra, where children are now being snatched from the streets or their homes. On June 22, the council of Al-Qurnah district in the Basra governorate warned about the rise of child abduction, demanding the security forces to take decisive actions against it. This kind of crime had previously affected the children of the rich.

Mostly, reported cases of child abduction are not dealt with systematically by the Iraqi police, noted Mohsin Ali Attia, a writer in the field of education in Babil governorate. “Intervention in these cases remains at the security level. There is no comprehensive treatment for this pressing issue,” Attia told Al-Monitor.

Capt. Abbas Fadil of the Babil police told Al-Monitor, “There are no sociologists or experts on child abduction. Children who are released from captivity are returned to their families without any psychological or social treatment and follow-up.”

Asked about his experiences with child kidnapping, Fadil said, “In December 2015, a child was gang raped after being forced to climb into a vehicle duct taped. Most of the cases are similar to this one, where children are being abducted by amateur gangs in the security chaos and lack of security measures. The motives are either financial, where criminals ask for ransom amounting to as much as $20,000, or the organ trade. Girls are kidnapped to be sold into sexual slavery,” he said.

Qassem Saleh, the head of the Iraqi Psychological Association, told Al-Monitor, “We relayed a message to the government and parliament that we are ready to employ our scientific expertise and to conduct the necessary research and study to help provide solutions to serious social threats like child abduction, but to no avail.”

He added, “This negligence is undermining the role of social and psychological research, despite the fact that there are many sociologists and other experts holding seminars to voice their findings … but [the government] does not invest in their capabilities and studies.”

The lack of social research in Iraq cannot be attributed to a dearth of specialists. Large numbers of university graduates in the relevant subjects cannot find work, while child abduction and other social issues continue to rise.

Mohammed Hussein, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Baghdad in 1987, was unable to find a job related to his major. “I had to work as a trader, although I am well aware that the community is in need of my expertise.”

Hussein, however, continues to follow social problems. He said, “Many studies have been conducted on the abduction of children, but none has made any tangible impact on the ground.”

He went on, “There have been modest attempts to support social research related to child abduction on the part of the local government, which is funding the field visits of researchers and other experts to districts and subdistricts in Basra governorate. Researchers are being offered a monthly stipend of around 250,000 dinars [$200] a month for educating children in schools and other places about this matter.”

Other modest steps are being taken to address child abduction, according to Abdul Aziz al-Zalimi, a parliament member on the Labor and Social Affairs Committee. Zalimi told Al-Monitor, “Last year, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs contracted with 1,200 social workers to conduct a field survey on ways to consolidate social protection and to find means of communication between social workers and families who face such social hardships.”

The government is not currently involved in any initiatives to find solutions to child abduction in Iraq. For instance, there is no kidnapping database for use by researchers and decision-makers.

Yousef Muhsen, who writes about political and social affairs for the Sabah newspaper, asked Al-Monitor, “Do the academic institutions in Iraq have the necessary scientific research on social illnesses? Does it have a database on child abduction cases and their effect on social and physiological structures?” He added, “What has been achieved so far in this sector is so little because of the lack of support and supplies from the government.”

A great deal of work is needed on finding solutions to child abduction in Iraq not only in the security field but also in the social and educational realms. The role of academics and professionals with training in social rehabilitation ought to be promoted in various state institutions, including police stations, schools, hospitals and orphanages, as Iraq struggles to fight this problem.

(Picture: UNICEF)

By Omar al-Jaffal, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq is experiencing a resurgence in the abductions of foreigners, something that had tapered off in recent years. Three new incidents include the kidnappings of 18 Turkish workers in September, 26 Qatari hunters in December and three US citizens in January.

Following the US occupation of Iraq in April 2003, Iraq became a ripe environment for the kidnapping of Arab and foreign diplomats, as well as foreign laborers. In 2004, Egyptian and Iranian diplomats were kidnapped by unidentified militants and the Islamic Army in Iraq, respectively. Yet negotiations with the abducting groups led to their release.

The same year saw the kidnapping of foreign workers whose companies were forced to leave Iraq because they received constant threats; one example is Turkish goods transfer company Atahan, which closed its doors after one of its workers was kidnapped.

Iraq was unable to protect its citizens and foreign laborers working on its territory.

Although abductions abated during the second term of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (2010-2014), suicide bombings continued as armed groups grew amid the Iraqi authorities’ failure to eliminate them. Kidnappings strongly re-emerged after the Islamic State (IS) took control of one-third of the country in June 2014.

In the recent kidnappings, the 18 Turkish workers in Baghdad were taken as they worked on building a sports facility east of the capital. A group known as the Death Squad claimed responsibility. The group had a clear political agenda: In a video released Sept. 11, the group called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to lift the siege imposed on two Shiite villages in northern Syria. The Death Squad is a Shiite group whose supporters have yet to be revealed.

The US embassy in Baghdad has confirmed that “several” Americans have been kidnapped in the city.

BBC News quotes a state department official as saying:

“We are working with the full co-operation of the Iraqi authorities to locate and recover the individuals.”

US officials did not say how many were held or where they were seized, but an official in Baghdad said three CNN contractors were missing.

AFP said an Iraqi police colonel said on condition of anonymity that three Americans and an Iraqi translator were kidnapped in southern Baghdad.

In January, a group of Qatari hunters, including members of the ruling family, was kidnapped in the Iraqi desert, and their whereabouts are still unknown.

(Sources: BBC News, AFP)

(Kidnap image via Shutterstock)