Iraqi Aide to NPR Missing, Feared Dead
DEBORAH AMOS, host:
When a man named Abu Abdullah was kidnapped in Baghdad last month, it was soon clear he was another example of the targeted sectarian violence that's tearing the country apart.
Abu Abdullah - and that's not his real name - was especially important for NPR's Baghdad staff because he provided the details of the daily deaths in the city from his office in Iraq's Interior Ministry.
NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports.
JAMIE TARABAY: He was a Sunni who managed to keep his old job as an intelligence officer at the Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry by not being too obvious, a sort of Mr. Gray - under the radar but not invisible. A fat, jolly man with a buzzcut and neat mustache, Abu Abdullah knew he was entering dangerous territory when he went to work each day.
Mr. ABDURAZACH ABDULLAH(ph) (Interior Ministry): (Through translator) The Sunni officers are harassed inside their offices, and they fear assassination when they leave work. Shiite officers want to remove the Sunnis from important positions, especially internal affairs.
TARABAY: Abu Abdullah tried to fit in with Shiite colleagues. He memorized Shiite religious quotes and changed the way he prayed to conform with Shiite practices, but it wasn't enough to save him.
Last month, as he was returning home from work, Abu Abdullah was accosted by a group of armed men outside his house. They hit him over the head with a pistol, threw him into the trunk of their car and sped away. His wife saw the whole thing and immediately called one her husband's colleagues at the ministry, Abdurazach Abdullah(ph).
Mr. ABDURAZACH: (Through translator) The first thing I did was to call his cell, but the phone was turned off. So we asked police commandos to provide us with a force to go after the kidnappers.
TARABAY: The early indications suggested Abu Abdullah's kidnappers had taken him to Saidia, a hotbed of sectarian violence in West Baghdad.
Abdurazach said the national police, a well-equipped paramilitary force, refused to enter the area, claiming it was too dangerous.
Mr. ABDURAZACH: (Through translator) That forced us to use a regular patrol unit to go in and check the area, but we couldn't find anything. Saidia is a big area.
TARABAY: Abdurazach suspects the kidnapping was an inside job, organized by someone who knew what Abu Abdullah did at the ministry. Not long afterwards, Abdurazach says he got a message on his phone from the Islamic State of Iraq, the group comprising al-Qaida in Iraq and its affiliates. The group claimed it was holding Abu Abdullah and warned he wouldn't be their last victim. It wasn't long before the threat became reality.
Mr. ABDURAZACH: (Through translator) At least three other officers who used to work with Abu Abdullah have been kidnapped and killed.
TARABAY: Abdurazach believes the men holding Abu Abdullah tortured him for information on his colleagues - where they lived, what their routines were. If it was the Islamic State of Iraq that had him, Abdurazach thinks it was because Abu Abdullah refused to align himself politically with any one, even among the Sunni groups, and he was being punished for it.
Mr. ABDURAZACH: (Through translator) They say you're not with us and not with the parties against us. They think we should pick a side.
TARABAY: Since then, there have been no certain messages from the kidnappers. The leads on Abu Abdullah have dried up and his family fears the worst.
Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.
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