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WikiLeaks: 2008-12-04: 08BAGHDAD3811: Countering Hostage-Taking in Iraq

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD3811: December 04, 2008.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 01:00 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD3811 2008-12-04 14:57 SECRET Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #3811/01 3391457
R 041457Z DEC 08
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 06 BAGHDAD 003811 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/03/2018 
Classified By: Political Military Minister-Counselor Michael H. Corbin 
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
1.  (S) SUMMARY.  Embassy Baghdad's Office of Hostage Affairs 
(OHA) has provided critical support to the Embassy and MNF-I 
in the recovery of hostages captured by a multitude of 
criminal/insurgent organizations in Iraq.  Formed in 2004 as 
the Hostage Working Group (HWG), OHA has three primary roles: 
kidnap prevention, hostage recovery, and pursuing justice for 
the criminals and insurgents who commit these crimes. Within 
the Embassy, OHA is the lead office on hostage issues, and 
coordinates the efforts of the Department of Justice (DOJ) 
and other Embassy elements as well as Multi-National Force 
Iraq (MNF-I).  OHA also coordinates with the Government of 
Iraq (GOI), including the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry 
of Defense, and the Counter Terrorism Bureau. 
2.  (S) The improving security situation in Iraq brings with 
it a new set of challenges and potential vulnerabilities.  As 
U.S. officials, private entrepreneurs, and non-governmental 
organization staff expand their operations in Iraq and 
interact more frequently with the Iraqi population, they will 
become more susceptible to kidnapers and insurgents seeking 
easy targets.  The USG will continue to need a means to 
respond should this occur.  Moreovoer, Iraq requires a 
comprehensive approach to mitigate the economic, social, and 
security impact of kidnapping.  This will require involvement 
and buy-in from the highest levels of the GOI and should 
involve standing up a dedicated hostage recovery capability 
within the government.  END SUMMARY. 
Introduction to the Hostage Problem in Iraq 
3.  (SBU) Kidnapping in Iraq for political, sectarian, or 
financial gain has proven to be an effective technique for 
insurgent, terrorist and criminal elements since late 2003. 
Hostage takers have been successfully utilizing kidnappings 
to fund terrorist and other illicit activities, create civil 
unrest, erode the legitimacy of the GOI, generate propaganda, 
garner media attention, and to push for political concessions 
from non-Western countries.  Kidnappings have slowed 
reconstruction, delayed economic development, and undermined 
efforts to establish a Rule of Law and restore human rights 
and civil liberties to the people of Iraq. 
4.  (SBU) According to Iraqi police statistics, before the 
improved security situation beginning late summer of 2008, 
85% of the kidnappings were sectarian in nature; with the 
stabilizing security environment, the Iraqis believe this has 
reversed to approximately 85% of kidnappings being criminal 
in nature.  At the height of the kidnapping problem, it is 
estimated that there were between 40-50 kidnappings a day in 
the Baghdad area alone.   Current estimates for the Baghdad 
area are between 10-15 kidnappings per month.  Statistics for 
outlying regions vary tremendously depending on the source of 
the data, definitions utilized by the collecting entity, and 
trends of community reporting to GOI or Coalition Forces at 
the time of data collection; reporting such numbers is not a 
reliable gauge of existing kidnap trends without extensive 
research and statistical analysis. 
5.  (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) Within the last several months there 
has been increase in reporting regarding the kidnapping of 
children.  OHA has received reports of four child kidnap 
events in the past two months, only two of which are known to 
Qevents in the past two months, only two of which are known to 
have been resolved successfully.  Iraqi police state this is 
a low-risk, high return venture for the criminal elements and 
attribute the rapid payment of ransoms to the emotional 
trauma endure by the hostages, families.   Initial ransom 
demands appear to range from USD 250,000 to USD 100,000 for a 
child.  Of the cases OHA has observed, the ransoms have been 
negotiated to under USD 20,000 and paid within a two-week 
period or less. 
6.  (S/NF) Hassan Al Aumari is the most recent American 
citizen to be kidnapped, in July 2008; the family paid USD 
30,000 for his release (the kidnappers originally demanded 
USD 250,000, but was reduced due to negotiations).  The last 
American kidnapped and still held is Michael Chand, kidnapped 
August 17, 2007.  Mr. Chand,s whereabouts are unknown and 
the interagency community continues to diligently pursue his 
safe recovery. 
How OHA Evolved 
7.  (SBU) In response to a rapidly increasing number of 
BAGHDAD 00003811  002 OF 006 
kidnappings, the Hostage Working Group (HWG) was created at 
U.S. Embassy Baghdad on an ad hoc basis in April 2004 in an 
effort to coordinate the U.S. government response to all 
hostage activities in Iraq.  The continuing prevalence of 
incidents prompted the formalization of the HWG in November 
2005 as a COM-led crisis management team comprised of DOS, 
DOD, and DOJ entities responsible for personnel recovery as 
outlined in NSPD-12 (United States Citizens Taken Hostage 
Abroad).  In December 2006, the Office of Hostage Affairs was 
established as a permanent part of the Embassy staffing 
rather than a temporary working group. 
8.  (SBU) From April 2004 until August 2006, State Office of 
the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT) personnel were 
deployed to fill the HWG positions.  U.S. Army military 
reserve officers were deployed on six-month rotations to fill 
the Director billet beginning in September 2006 through April 
2008.  From May 2008 until present, Diplomatic Security has 
assigned a DS Agent to S/CT to fill the position as the 
Director of the Office of Hostage Affairs (OHA). 
8.  (SBU)  According to the Kennedy report, OHA is structured 
to be comprised of two Foreign Service Officers.  Presently, 
there are discussions underway between S/CT and Diplomatic 
Security (DS) about which bureau will provide the personnel 
to staff OHA,s Director position.  The Deputy position will 
continue to be filled through 2009 by a contractor as it has 
has been since the inception of the HWG. 
OHA,s Role and Structure 
10.  (S/REL TO USA, MCFI)  The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq 
established the Office of Hostage Affairs to be the primary 
interface for providing an overview on all hostage matters to 
his office and senior State Department leadership.  OHA is 
chartered to synchronize interagency collaboration through 
rapid information and intelligence sharing as well as 
facilitate diplomatic efforts for the safe and immediate 
recovery of hostages, and support the role of the Consular 
section in assisting U.S. citizens and their families. 
11.  (U) In support of the OHA charter, three pillars have 
been defined for this mission:  Prevention of future 
incidents, Recovery of hostages and Justice for the hostage 
12.  (U) Prevention:  OHA personnel provide monthly Hostage 
Awareness Training (HAT) at U.S. Embassy Baghdad as well as 
travel throughout Iraq to the 29 Regional Embassy Offices 
(REOs), Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and Embedded 
PRTs (EPRTs) to provide HAT training.   HAT training consists 
of a one-hour briefing on the current threat environment, 
common hostage taker tactics, how to reduce the risk of being 
taken, how to increase chances of survival in the event of 
being taken hostage, and a synopsis of USG efforts for 
recovery.  This training has also been provided to members of 
the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Broadcast 
Board of Governors (BBG), media professionals, and security 
corporations operating in Iraq. 
13.  (S/NF) OHA coordinates the conduct of specialized 
training for the Diplomatic Security (DS) agents and 
supporting contract staff responsible for the protection and 
movement of COM personnel.  This training is conducted by the 
Air Force or Army Survival, Escape, Resistance, and Evasion 
(SERE) specialists and includes High Risk of Isolation (HRI) 
training and periodic briefings on the means and methods 
Qtraining and periodic briefings on the means and methods 
utilized by DOD to contact isolated individuals who are in 
critical need of recovery assistance. 
14.  (S/NF) Recovery:  Immediately upon notification of a 
kidnapping incident, the Interagency is capable of sending 
Combined Interagency Personnel Hostage Recovery (CIPHR) team 
to the REO or PRT nearest to the site of the kidnapping to 
assist the Battle Space commander in the hostage incident. 
The CIPHR team is ordinarily comprised of FBI Agents and an 
OHA representative; a military PR representative from MNF-I 
is always invited.    The CIPHR team provides much needed 
expertise in direct liaison between the family members of the 
victim and the USG, as well as directs the negotiation and 
follow-on investigation as appropriate.  The CIPHR team lead 
coordinates the recovery and acts as a conduit of information 
between the MND and the elements at MNF-I and US Embassy. 
15.  (SBU) Additionally, OHA leads the interagency effort to 
engage with Provincial and local police and elected officials 
BAGHDAD 00003811  003 OF 006 
to elicit information regarding hostage cases through 
one-on-one meetings and by addressing the District Advisory 
Councils, as appropriate. 
16.  (S) Recovery operations, for the purpose of this cable, 
can be categorized under two primary responses:  hasty 
(rescue) and deliberate (recovery).  Hasty operations involve 
a actions initiated from the initial report of abduction 
until the time at which a) the military commander has 
exercised all options and has no further recourse for an 
immediate rescue, or b) the Crisis Action Team (CAT) reviews 
an abduction report and determines that sufficient time has 
passed since the individual has gone missing to negate the 
positive results potentially gained by utilizing quick 
reaction forces.  Deliberate recovery responses include all 
activities that extend beyond the period of a hasty rescue 
17.  (S/NF) OHA coordinates closely with PRD for all military 
involvement in response activities, whether hasty or 
deliberate.   Hasty response activities aimed at an immediate 
rescue are normally conducted by the respective 
multi-national division (MND) commander where the hostage has 
been reported missing.   Deliberate recovery operations, 
which require development of intelligence targets and 
investigative leads, are normally supported by the MNDs but 
often times exceed their capacity for support due to other 
on-going operational demands.   In certain cases, targeted 
operations are executed by Task Force or CJSOTF elements. 
Rescue attempts involving individuals under POI status have 
been conducted previously in conjunction with Iraqi Special 
Operations Forces (ISOF), under the supervision of CJSOTF, 
and in coordination with the MND elements. 
18.  (S/NF) Justice:  OHA supports the FBI and the Central 
Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) in the pursuit of justice 
against those involved in kidnapping.   Through sharing of 
case information with US LNOs to the CCCI, OHA facilitates 
the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of kidnappings 
against Americans, foreign nationals and Iraqi citizens.  For 
example, in July 2008, as permitted by Iraqi law in the case 
of first-time convictions for kidnappers, the leader of the 
kidnapping cell responsible for the kidnapping of the 
Chaldean Archbishop received the death penalty for his 
involvement in the crime.   OHA, CCCI, and the Chaldean 
Church worked closely prior to the conviction to ensure the 
investigative judge had all information available to conduct 
a fair trial. 
19.  (C) One of the key responsibilities of OHA is 
recommending to the Ambassador nominations for "Person of 
Interest" (POI) status.  A standing Interagency Memorandum of 
Understanding for Personnel Recovery in Iraq allows for the 
DCM to designate anyone outside of the current mandate as a 
POI.  This status is nominated through OHA to the DCM and 
presented to the Commanding General MNF-I to request 
interagency authority to utilize the full force of military 
assets to recovery an individual.  All American citizens, CF 
military members, U.S. contractors, Diplomats, NATO, UN and 
EU members will receive POI status.  (Note: Current DoD 
policy authorizes the utilization of all military assets to 
recover DoD contractors or civilians accompanying the force, 
but does not explicitly and directly address those Americans 
not affiliated with DoD who thus fall outside the mandated 
responsibility of DoD for recovery.   Augmenting MOAs and 
Qresponsibility of DoD for recovery.   Augmenting MOAs and 
MOUs have attempted to clarify this discrepancy, but changes 
have not yet been reflected in policy changes. End Note.) 
Iraqi Agencies, Role in Combating Hostage Taking 
20.  (SBU) The GOI organizations currently responsible for 
hostage recovery in Iraq fall under two Ministries: Ministry 
of Interior (MOI) for investigations and Ministry of Defense 
for action or rescue operations. 
21.  (SBU) The Iraqi Police (IP), which fall under the MOI, 
are responsible for responding to the initial report of a 
kidnap event involving Iraqi citizens.  If the local IP 
station lacks capability or is inadequately staffed to 
respond, the senior ranking member of the station may opt to 
request assistance from the Baghdad Operations Center (BOC), 
in Baghdad Province or, in outlying provinces, from the 
Provincial Chief of Police.  This, however, is not a commonly 
exercised practice.  More often than not the kidnapping is 
resolved through tribal negotiations and payment of ransom by 
the family. 
BAGHDAD 00003811  004 OF 006 
22.  (SBU) High profile kidnapping cases in Iraq, and the 
majority of kidnapping cases in Baghdad, are handled by the 
Ministry of Interior (MOI) Criminal Investigative Division 
(CID).  The primary interface to the MOI CID is the FBI Legal 
Attache (Legat).  In the event OHA receives a report of an 
Iraqi citizen being kidnapped and the individual does not 
receive POI status, the case is passed through the Legat to 
the MOI CID for investigation and resolution. 
23.  (S/NF) The MOI CID has a special unit for rescue 
operations involving kidnappings, the Emergency Response Unit 
(ERU).  The ERU has been plagued with problems of corruption 
and political power plays and is not assessed by OHA to be a 
fully-capable response or action arm at this time. 
24.  (S/NF) The MOD has developed an action arm capable of 
conducting recovery operations which falls under the CTB and 
is comprised of Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), 
mentored and assisted by U.S. Special Forces Advisors.   The 
Interagency is established a good working relationship and is 
impressed with ISOF,s rescue capability which provides an 
Iraqi face to the force and is overseen by U.S. Special 
Forces advisors. 
25.  (S/NF) The GOI does not have a national policy office 
nor designated points of contact for international or 
domestic kidnapping matters, though the default contact in 
the past has been the National Security Advisor for 
high-profile and select international cases.   Without such 
an office, OHA has become the central point of contact for 
foreign governments, dignitaries, diplomats, and family 
members seeking resolution to the kidnapping of their 
citizens.   UNSCR 1511 allowed for the USG, through OHA, to 
provide recovery assistance to many of the aforementioned 
under the auspices of maintaining security and stability in 
Iraq.   As the UNSCR expires, USG ability to assist and 
respond will be markedly limited in scope; and the GOI still 
does not have the capacity to respond independently. 
Interagency Personnel Recovery (PR) in Iraq 
26.  (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) JIAPRWG.  The Joint Inter Agency 
Personnel Recovery Working Group (JIAPRWG) is the Embassy 
personnel recovery community forum for case coordination and 
information sharing.  The JIAPRWG is comprised of multiple 
DOD and COM entities with responsibilities for intelligence, 
law enforcement, and political support to personnel recovery. 
 The primary partners to OHA within the JIAPRWG are the FBI 
and the MNF-I Personnel Recovery Division (MNF-I CJ3 PRD). 
The JIAPRWG convenes a meeting bi-weekly to discuss current 
issues and review case developments. 
27.  (C) The FBI.  OHA and the FBI coordinate daily regarding 
current American citizen cases.  As legislated by NSPD-12, 
the FBI is the lead agency for all activities related to the 
collection of evidence, development and implementation of 
negotiation strategies, the conduct of investigations, and in 
conducting forensics as relates to the recovery of kidnapped 
American citizens abroad.  The FBI advises the members of the 
JIAPRWG on current negotiation strategies and guides private 
negotiating parties concerning negotiation techniques as 
28.  (C) The FBI hostage recovery efforts in Iraq are 
overseen by the Legat office and augmented by FBI Baghdad 
Operations Center (BOC) Hostage Working Group (HWG). The 
Legat works directly with the Iraq Ministry of Interior 
QLegat works directly with the Iraq Ministry of Interior 
Criminal Investigative Division (MOI CID).  FBI Special 
Agents on temporary duty assignment to the BOC lead the 
investigative effort for resolution of American citizen cases. 
29.  (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) PRD.  The Personnel Recovery 
Division (MNF-I CJ3 PRD) is OHA,s primary interface with DOD 
personnel recovery components.   PRD is the central 
repository for all intelligence information in Iraq regarding 
current and past hostage cases, and serves as the COM link to 
DOD hasty and deliberate recovery assets in the event of a 
kidnapping.  Through the PRD, OHA is able to submit requests 
for intelligence information, obtain access to detainee 
interview reports, facilitate transfer of suspects from Iraqi 
to Coalition Forces custody, and coordinate targeted 
information operations campaigns aimed at those believed to 
have information regarding hostages or hostage takers.  PRD 
is located at the Victory Base Complex adjacent to the 
Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). 
BAGHDAD 00003811  005 OF 006 
30.  (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) Outside of PRD, the principle 
components of the military PR architecture in Iraq are the 
USCENTCOM Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC) in the 
Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC), Al Udied Air Base 
(AUAB); the MNC-I Personnel Recovery Coordination Center 
(PRCC), Camp Victory, Iraq; Recovery Coordination Center 
(RCC,s) at each Major Subordinate Command (MSC) throughout 
the theater.  The respective functions of each of these PR 
nodes can be referenced in MNF-I Fragmentary Order 08-120. 
31.  (SBU) RSO. The Regional Security Office (RSO) supports 
OHA efforts through the prioritization of air and ground 
security assets in response to a kidnap incident.  OHA works 
closely with the RSO Intelligence and Investigations Unit on 
a daily basis regarding threats to individuals, regional and 
location specific threat assessments, as well as on 
individual kidnap cases. 
32.  (SBU) Consular Affairs is responsible for notification 
of an abduction or recovery to the family members of American 
citizens through American Citizen Services (ACS).  The 
existing MOU between FBI and DOS requires that once an 
investigation has been initiated into an American citizen 
kidnapping, all interaction with the family will be 
coordinated through the FBI,s Office of Victim's Assistance 
(OVA) at FBI Headquarters. 
33.  (SBU) OPA.  OHA coordinates with the Embassy's Office of 
Provincial Affairs (OPA) prior to any travel to the PRTs and 
EPRTs.  OPA desk officers are able to provide atmospherics of 
their region and assist in setting meetings with the 
appropriate GOI members for specific engagements.   OHA 
personnel travel regularly to the PRTs and EPRTs to provide 
HAT training, engage with local tribal and government 
members, and as needed, to support newly reported hostage 
34.  (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) CCCI/TF134.  The primary conduit 
for information regarding detainees awaiting trial and the 
prosecution of those involved in kidnapping cases is through 
MNF-I's Task Force 134 (Detainee Operations) to the Central 
Criminal Courts of Iraq.  OHA works closely with TF134 LNOs 
to support their prosecutorial efforts, as well as to obtain 
additional information at the request of our interagency and 
international partners. 
35.  (S/NF) OHA works with our Intelligence community 
partners formulate approaches for engagements, develop 
negotiation strategies in conjunction with the FBI, and 
facilitate information collection in support of persistent 
and new cases. 
36.  (SBU) The Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism 
(S/CT) sets Department policy for hostage response worldwide 
and provides oversight to the Office of Hostage Affairs for 
all kidnap incidents in Iraq.  Additionally S/CT represents 
DOS equities at the NSC in regards to nation policy on 
interagency activities during a hostage incident.  The 
Director of OHA currently reports to and receives operational 
and program guidance from S/CT. 
36.  (SBU) The Diplomatic Security International Programs 
Office of Special Projects (DS/IP/OSP) has recently been 
given a greater purview for the training, prevention, and 
response to kidnap incidents worldwide.  This is an evolving 
responsibility within DS IP/OSP, and currently incorporates 
the Rewards For Justice program as well as oversight for 
funding of information operations through the military 
information support team (MIST). 
Major Challenges 
38.  (SBU) There are multiple challenges to locating, 
recovering, and returning our kidnapped Americans to their 
rightful homes, the most significant of which is the lack of 
host nation law enforcement capacity to partner with for 
response and investigative actions.  This is compounded by 
the tenuous security situation and non-permissive 
environments in which investigations, site exploitations, and 
travel must be conducted in order to obtain more information 
and locate the hostages.   The high turnover rate of 
personnel also contributes to the lack of corporate knowledge 
and often times leads to interagency partners attempting a 
second or third time to implement policies or procedures 
which have been demonstrated as ineffective previously. 
BAGHDAD 00003811  006 OF 006 
Exacerbating the entire situation is the minimal visibility 
we have over how many Americans are currently in country, 
where they are working or living, and the inability to assess 
their current security profile. 
Expectations for the Future 
39.  (SBU) The general security situation in Iraq has become 
safer in recent months with a marked decrease in violence, 
but that does not make the country altogether safe.  As 
stability, or the perception thereof, increases so will the 
travel of softer target civilians throughout the country. 
These individuals include businesspersons, tourists, NGOs, 
and dual-nationality citizens returning for family visits, 
who are not adhering to the security postures observed by the 
majority of Americans present in Iraq over recent years.  The 
coinciding increased movement through unknown territories, 
reduced security measures, continued need of criminal and 
insurgent groups to finance their activities, and the tenuous 
security situation has the very real potential of parlaying 
into an increase of kidnappings in the future. 
40.  (SBU) Criminal elements are known to look for easy 
targets of opportunity.  Iraqi Americans returning to visit 
their families or conduct business, NGO workers, those 
starting new business ventures and tourists are particularly 
vulnerable to this type of kidnapping.   The best mitigation 
to this threat is to encourage increased personal security 
awareness, and provide threat-specific training to 
COM-affiliated personnel. 
41.  (S/NF) The Department does not have a reintegration 
policy for American citizens recovered by the USG requiring 
separation of the victim from the targeted area for a 
specified duration.  As such, once successfully recovered an 
American citizen can return to the same hostile environment 
from which he or she was taken, as was seen in the case of 
Hassan Al Aumari.  In the future this could mean repeated 
recovery operations being conducted for the same individual. 
42.  (SBU) The Kurdistan region has seen a sharp increase in 
the amount of tourism to its area.  Although violence is far 
lower in this region and development is expansive, this does 
not mitigate the risk to tourists who are prone to go off the 
beaten path, such as those who have been seen venturing into 
the mountainous countryside.  Open press recently reported 
that a group of tourists, after their visit to the Kurdistan 
region, hired their own Personnel Security Detail (PSD) to 
travel to other parts of Iraq to visit the religious and 
cultural sites.  In a post-UNSCR environment such PSDs will 
not be able to fight off an attack by kidnappers without 
serious legal repercussions. 
43.  (S/REL TO USA, MCFI) Depending on the political 
environment at any given time, the potential exists as 
demonstrated by past events, for systematic targeting of 
Iraqi and foreign dignitaries for kidnapping.   Targeting 
distinguished persons would significantly raise the stakes 
with respect to political, diplomatic or economic 
concessions.  The GOI does not have the capacity to 
adequately respond or assist the USG with such kidnap cases. 
44.  (SBU) Iraq requires a comprehensive approach to mitigate 
the economic, social, and security impact of kidnapping. 
This will require involvement and buy-in from the highest 
levels of the GOI to stand up a dedicated hostage recovery 
capability within the government.  The entity responsible 
Qcapability within the government.  The entity responsible 
needs to address lingering cultural indifference to 
kidnapping, prevention and threat mitigation for foreigners 
and Iraqi citizens alike, investigative resources, immediate 
response capabilities, and the requirement to see that 
hostage takers are beholden to Iraqi law.  If this capacity 
is not built, kidnapping in Iraq will continue to be a 
serious threat to the rule of law in Iraq, undermining the 
faith of the Iraqi people in their government and their 
security forces. 


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