November 17, 2006

Four Americans Kidnapped in Iraq, Austrian Civilian Killed

crescent_security_group_convoy_hostages.jpgUPDATE: 11/18/2006: Terror group with ties to Iran claims Western hostage taking. More recent updates posted here.
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Four American and one Austrian civilian have been kidnapped in Iraq. The five men were part of a convoy heading through the Shia dominated south of Iraq, but are thought to be held in a Sunni area. That part of Iraq is generally patrolled by British forces.

14 people were taken hostage, but the 9 non-Westerners have since been released. The implication I draw from this is that the hostages are being held for money, and that we should expect a ransom demand soon. UPDATE: Speculation is already abounding that the abductions are related to the issuing of an arrest warrant for the top Sunni cleric in Iraq. If this is the case, then the kidnappings are politically motivated. This is bad news if true.

Only the name of one of the Western hostages has been released to the public. he is Paul Reuben of Minnesota. UPDATE: The Austrian hostage, I'm sad to report, has been found dead. One American has been found alive, but wounded. Three Americans still missing. UPDATE: New reports that a second American freed. UPDATE: Reports in flux. New reports indicate all 5 possibly still missing!

Scroll down for updates. Most recent updates near bottom.

The five men work for The Crescent Security Group, which provide security for military, civilian, and diplomatice convoys in Iraq:

Crescent Security Group conducts convoy escort duties for an ever growing number of Coalition Militaries, Embassies, Government Contractors, Private enterprise, transport and freight forwarding companies.

Crescent operates with a minimum configuration of 3 'gun trucks' per convoy with an emphasis on the safety of life, goods under transit and vehicles in our care.

Gun trucks are civilian vehicles upgraded and in house maintained to operate in hostile and extreme climatic environments. They can be of an up-armored, semi-armored or soft skinned configuration, with each carrying all necessities to be self sufficient for extended periods of time

The company has an extensive photo archive, including many of its employees in action here.

Coalition forces have begun searching for the hostages. CNN:

Coalition forces Friday were searching "aggressively" for five security contractors, including four Americans, who were abducted Thursday during an ambush on their convoy, a military source said.

A spokesman for Crescent Security Group said five of their security personnel were "unaccounted for." The contractors disappeared near Basra on Thursday afternoon....

The supply convoy was traveling from Kuwait, where Crescent operates, to Tallil Airbase near Nasiriya in southern Iraq when it was ambushed, the Crescent spokesman said.

Local militia masquerading as Iraqi police attacked the convoy, using a fake police checkpoint, according to a military source.

UPDATE: Other reports indicate that fighting has erupted in the area. One American found alive, but wounded. Sadly, the Austrian hostage is dead. Chron.com:
British ground forces and U.S. military helicopters fought with gunmen Friday in southern Iraq where four American security contractors and their Austrian co-worker were abducted in a convoy hijacking.

The Austrian was found dead and one of the Americans was found gravely wounded, an Iraqi police officer said. The three Americans who were among the five Crescent Security Group employees taken hostage remained missing in the largely Sunni area....

Capt. Tane Dunlop, a spokesman for British forces who were fighting gunmen in the area where the kidnapping took place, said in a telephone interview from Basra that the hijacking occurred at 1 p.m. Thursday in Safwan, an Iraqi city near the Kuwait border. He said the convoy was coming from Kuwait.

At dawn Friday, British ground forces and helicopters searched an area of Safwan for gunmen who had attacked coalition forces in the past few days when about 10 of them opened fire from farm buildings, Dunlop said. The British and U.S. forces returned fire, Dunlop said.

UPDATE: We hope the NY Times version is correct:
But a spokesman for the Kuwait-based company employing the contractors said in the early evening that all five victims were still missing.
.We pray for their immediate and unconditional release.

We also hope that all will put aside partisanship and ideology in rallying around these hostages. You'll remember that when American security contractors were murdered and their bodies desecrated in Fallujah, that Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, of the Daily Kos, said "Screw Them."

MORE UPDATES BELOW


UPDATE: Now reports of two Americans freed.

Iraqi police freed two American hostages in a raid on Friday but a third foreigner was found dead a day after they were kidnapped when their truck convoy was hijacked at a bogus security checkpoint.
But reports seem to be conflicting. Other reports (especially foreign sources) indicate that the fighting actually may be between Coalition forces and Iraqi police who are connected with Shia militias.

UPDATE: No Burqa e-mails the latest. New reports indicate that there were two incidents. The first, a shoot out between Iraqi police and private security officers. The second, the kidnapping of the 5 Westerners. Fox News:

But Basra police Maj. Gen. Ali al-Moussawi later said none of the kidnapped security company employees had been freed and claimed the governor had confused separate incidents in the region involving private security forces.

Al-Moussawi said the five kidnap victims — four Americans and an Austrian — were still in the hands of a criminal gang that had demanded a ransom.

Al-Moussawi said the governor's confusion arose out of a separate incident on Friday in which a member of a private security team leading a convoy was killed.

Developing....

If you have any information about Paul Reubens or any of the other hostages, please e-mail Rusty at the contat information above.

Spc. Ahmed K. Altaie is still hostage in Iraq. Friends of his inform me that they are hopeful that he will be released alive.

Other American hostages in Iraq still missing:
Dean Sadek
Aban Elias
Jeffrey Ake

PS--If there are any developments in the story that I miss, please e-mail me with tips to mypetjawa@gmail.com.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 10:32 AM | Comments |