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XII. Abduction and Execution of Non-Iraqi Civilians

Some insurgent groups have repeatedly targeted non-Iraqi civilians working in Iraq as drivers, businesspeople, contractors, journalists and humanitarian workers. Abductions, sometimes followed by execution, have been the most common abuse.

The goal of the abductions is often to pressure the victim’s government into removing its forces from Iraq, or other concessions, such as the release of prisoners. Insurgent groups have also abducted drivers to force a company to stop doing business in Iraq.

A common motivation behind the abductions is money. Non-Iraqis are targeted because of the ransom from a country or a company that the insurgents, or a criminal group, hope to extract.

Since April 2003, insurgent groups have abducted more than 200 non-Iraqis from at least twenty-two different countries.309 The abductors killed fifty-two of these people, and at least forty-three are still missing.310 The rest were released.

The first reported summary execution of a non-Iraqi civilian by an insurgent group resulting in death happened on April 14, 2004. A group called the Mujahadin Brigades said it had detained four Italian civilian security guards in al-Falluja, and it demanded that Italy withdraw its military from Iraq in order for them to be released. “The Italian government...should vow and give guarantees to withdraw its forces from Iraq and give a time schedule and to free Muslim clerics in Iraq,” a voice on a video broadcast on al-Jazeera said.311 The group eventually freed three of the men but they executed the fourth, Fabrizio Quattrocchi.312

The executions of non-Iraqi civilians became headline news in the international media the next month with the videotaped beheading of U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg, aged twenty-six, who had been abducted in mid-April 2004. On May 11, a video circulated widely on the Internet, entitled “Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi Shown Slaughtering an American.” It showed a group of masked men standing behind Berg, who sat on the ground in an orange jump-suit, similar to those worn by detainees at Guantanamo Bay. “For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the U.S. administration to exchange this hostage with some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib and they refused,” one of five men wearing headscarves and black masks read from a statement. “So we tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls.”313 One of the men then beheaded Berg with a large, curved knife. Millions of Internet users around the world downloaded the video, making al-Zarqawi a household name.314

In August 2004, Ansar al-Sunna abducted and executed twelve Nepalese, who were working in Iraq as cleaners and cooks for a Jordanian company, including one by beheading. On August 31, the group posted pictures and video of the executions on the Internet, with a statement that said they had been killed because they “came from their country to fight the Muslims and to serve the Jews and the Christians.”315

On September 16, 2004, armed men abducted three civil engineers, two Americans and a Briton, from their home in the al-Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad.316 Two days later, al-Zarqawi’s al-Tawhid wal-Jihad group announced it would kill the hostages—Eugene Armstrong, Jack Hensley and Kenneth Bigley—in forty-eight hours if the U.S. did not release the Iraqi women it held in detention. After the deadline passed, on September 20, a website used by radical Islamic groups posted a video that showed the beheading of a man identified as Eugene Armstrong. “You, sister, rejoice. God’s soldiers are coming to get you out of your chains and restore your purity by returning you to your mother and father,” the man said before grabbing the hostage and cutting his throat. “The fate of the first infidel was cutting off the head before your eyes and ears. You have a 24-hour opportunity. Abide by our demand in full and release all the Muslim women, otherwise the head of the other will follow this one,” the speaker said.317

Twenty-four hours later, al-Tawhid wal-Jihad posted a message that the other American, Jack Hensley, had also been killed. “Thank God, the lions of the Tawhid and Jihad have slaughtered the second American hostage at the expiration of the set deadline,” the message said. “The British hostage will face the same fate unless the British government does what’s necessary to free him.”318 The next day, September 22, the British engineer Kenneth Bigley appeared in a video posted to the Internet, pleading with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to: “Please, please release the female prisoners that are held in Iraqi prisons.”319 The group executed Bigley three weeks later.320

Some of the abductions were to pressure a foreign government into withdrawing its forces from Iraq. In July 2004, for example, the Islamic Army in Iraq abducted the Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz, aged forty-six, and threatened to kill him if the Philippine military did not withdraw from Iraq. On July 12, the Philippine government announced it was withdrawing all of its forces from Iraq to save de la Cruz. “In response to your request, the Philippines ... will withdraw its humanitarian forces as soon as possible,” the government said.321 A week later the insurgents released de la Cruz.

Insurgents released another Filipino hostage on June 22, 2005, after holding him for nearly eight months. According to media reports, a group called Jaysh al-Mujahidin(Mujahadin Army) released Robert Tarongoy, a thirty-one-year-old accountant for a Saudi firm, after the Philippine government agreed to ban its nationals from traveling to Iraq and to adopt a new law that punished those who disobey the order.322 The group had abducted Tarongoy on November 1, 2004, along with five co-workers. The group quickly released four of them, a Nepali and three Iraqis, but is believed to still be holding the U.S. citizen Roy Hallums, who worked for a Saudi company that does catering for the Iraqi army.323

Other abducted non-Iraqis have pleaded in videos for soldiers from their respective countries to leave Iraq, such as the Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni in August 2004 (see chapter IX of this report, “Attacks on Media”) and the British-born director of CARE Margaret Hassan (see chapter VIII, “Attacks on Humanitarian Organizations”), both of whom were killed.

The abductions of truck drivers are sometimes meant to pressure a company into halting its business operations in Iraq. “This work is an abandonment of Islam,” two Sudanese truck drivers held by the Islamic Army in Iraq said in a March 2005 video. “I advise others to leave any work with the occupying infidel because the hand of justice will reach them wherever they are.”324 The group eventually released the two men.325

On June 7, 2005, a group using the name the `Ali bin Abi Talib Brigades warned that it would kill a Turkish businessman named `Ali Musluoglu it had abducted and two of his companions “unless the Turkish authorities cease all forms of logistical support to the U.S. military as well as cooperation with U.S. firms doing business in Iraq.”326 The group later said it would release their hostage if his family paid “several million dollars,” Musluoglu’s brother said.327

In August 2004, an insurgent group made a demand not directly related to the conflict in Iraq: the Islamic Army in Iraq, holding the French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, said they wanted France to lift its ban on headscarves in schools. The French government ignored refused the demand, and the captors eventually released the two men.328

In summer 2005 insurgent groups began abducting foreign diplomats from Middle Eastern countries—an apparent attempt to isolate Iraq’s government from the Arab and Muslim world—and three of them were killed. The first victim was Egyptian envoy Ihab al-Sharif, who was seized on July 2, and al-Qaeda in Iraq later claimed he had been killed because of his country’s allegiance “to Jews and Christians.”329 The previous month Egypt had announced it would be the first Arab country to upgrade its mission in Iraq to a full embassy. Then, on July 21, al-Qaeda in Iraq abducted two Algerian diplomats, `Ali Belaroussi and Azzedine Belkadi. A statement posted to the Internet six days later claimed the group had killed the two men because of their government’s ties to the U.S. and its crackdown on Islamic militants. “Didn’t we warn you, O enemies of God, not to be loyal to the Jews and the Christians and to stand by the side of America or to carry out its plans,” the statement said.330

[309] For a list of foreign hostages taken in Iraq, see, “Foreign Hostages Still Held Captive in Iraq,” Agence France-Presse, July 3, 2005, and “Foreign Hostages in Iraq,” Reuters, July 27, 2005. The names of the missing and killed is believed to be accurate, but the list excludes dozens of non-Iraqis who were abducted and then released.

[310] The abducted non-Iraqis still missing are from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Jordan, Kuwait, Somalia, Turkey, Syria, Sudan, U.S., Lebanon, South Korea, Egypt and Brazil. The abductees who were killed came from: Italy, U.S., Lebanon, South Korea, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Nepal, United Kingdom, Macedonia, Japan, Jordan, Sudan, Somalia and Algeria.

[311] Andrew Hammond, “Iraqis Show Italian Hostages, Want Italy Out—TV,” Reuters, April 13, 2004.

[312] “Italy Confirms Hostage Killed in Iraq,” Reuters, April 14, 2004. Since Quattrocchi, three other Italian civilians have been abducted and killed: the journalist Enzo Baldoni, Italian-Iraqi businessman Ayad Anwar Wali and the aid worker Salvatore Santoro. (“Italian Soldier Killed in Iraq Auto Accident,” ANSA, July 14, 2005.)

[313] Niko Price, “Video on Islamic Militant Web Site Shows Beheading of American,” Associated Press, May 11, 2004.

[314] Susan B. Glasser and Steve Coll, “The Web as Weapon; Zarqawi Intertwines Acts on Ground in Iraq With Propaganda Campaign on the Internet,” Washington Post, August 9, 2005.

[315] “Nepalese Hostages Killed in Iraq,” BBC, August 31, 2004, accessible at, as of June 22, 2004, “Militants Kill 12 Nepal Hostages,” CNN, August 31, 2004, accessible at, accessed June 22, 2005, and Stephen Farrell and Charles Bremner, “Hostage Fears After Mass Killing,” The Times, September 1, 2004, accessible at,,7374-1240841,00.html, as of June 22, 2005.

[316] The men were working on Iraqi reconstruction projects for Gulf Supplies and Commercial Services, a United Arab Emirates-based company.

[317] Bassem Mroue, “Video on Website Shows Beheading of Man Said to Be American Hostage,” Associated Press, September 20, 2004.

[318] “Body of Slain American Hostage Found,” CNN, September 22, 2004, available at, as of August 18, 2005.

[319] “British Hostage Pleads For His Life Amid Claim Italians Killed in Iraq,” Agence France-Presse, September 23, 2004.

[320]British Hostage Beheaded in Iraq,” Reuters, October 10, 2004.

[321] Alistair Lyon, “Philippines Announces Pullout to Save Iraq Hostage,” Reuters, July 13, 2004. The government claimed that it was already planning to withdraw its fifty-one-person contingent at the end of the month.

[322] Al-Jazeera Television, June 22, 2005.

[323] “Filipino Returns Home After Hostage Ordeal in Iraq,” Reuters, June 23, 2005.

[324] “Iraq Militants Post Video of Two Sudanese Hostages,” Reuters, March 9, 2005.

[325] “Two Sudanese Hostages to Be Released by Islamic Army in Iraq: Video,” Agence France-Presse, April 6, 2005.

[326] “Family of Turkish Hostage Implore Iraqi Kidnappers to Spare Him,” Agence France-Presse, June 8, 2005, and “Iraq Militants Threaten to Kill Turkish Hostage,” Agence France-Presse, June 7, 2005, and “Dubai Television Shows Video of Turkish Businessman Kidnapped in Iraq,” Associated Press, June 7, 2005.

[327] “Iraqi Kidnappers Demand Multi-million Dollar Ransom for Turkish Hostage,” Agence France-Presse, June 18, 2005.

[328] “Hostage Takers Widen Demands Beyond Iraqi Affairs, Agence France-Presse, August 29, 2004.

[329]Marian Fam, “Kidnappers of Egyptian Diplomat Raise Stakes, Threaten to Kill Him to Punish Egypt,” Associated Press, July 6, 2005, and “Al-Qaida Claims to Have Killed Top Egyptian Diplomat in Iraq,” Associated Press, July 7, 2005.

[330] Robert H. Reid, “Al-Qaida Says It Killed Algerian Diplomats,” Associated Press, July 27, 2005.

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