Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kidnapped American Soldier

A few more details were reported today by CNN about an American soldier who was apparently kidnapped in Baghdad yesterday:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Masked men grabbed a U.S. soldier, handcuffed him and forced him into a vehicle, the U.S. military said Tuesday, offering a relative's account of the kidnapping in Baghdad.

The soldier, who has not been named, was visiting the relative at a residence when the kidnapping occurred Monday night. He did not have permission for the visit, a military spokesperson said Tuesday.

Shortly after the abduction, the kidnappers reportedly contacted the relative on the soldier's cell phone, the military said.

The soldier is of Iraq descent, and apparently paid an unauthorized visit to some relatives in Baghdad for Eid al-Fitr, and was kidnapped while he was there.

The fact the kidnappers contacted the relatives suggests the motive for this kidnapping: money. Over the past two years, many Iraqis have been kidnapped. Those Iraqis who are from wealthier familes are much more at risk - and many Iraqis have chosen to allow the exteriors of their homes to fall into disrepair, drive beat-up old cars, etc. so that people may be less likely to kidnap them.

In the case of the American soldier, the kidnappers likely figure that, even if the US government does not pay them off, the soldier's family in the US has money, and may be inclined to pay, the kidnappers, rather than see the kidnappers "sell" their son to one of the jihadi groups who may may him the star of their latest beheading video.

Kidnapping for ransom money is a major problem in Iraq now. All of the friends I know from there have horror stories of kidnappings or attempted kidnappings of people they know. In most cases I have heard of, the kidnappers demand ransom, and quietly release the victim if the family pays up.

The fact that the kidnappers phoned the family from the soldier's own cellphone suggests that ransom money may be the motive. If they were simply planning to murder the soldier, why would they bother kidnapping him, and why would they bother phoning?