Wednesday, August 10, 2016

2007 Political Kidnappings In Iraq Involving Asaib Ahl Al-Haq

In 2007 there were three series of political kidnappings surrounding Asaib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH), the League of the Righteous, a splinter group from the Sadr movement. Starting on January 20, a group of a dozen AAH fighters in five SUVs claiming to be commandos from Baghdad entered the Karbala provincial council compound. After gaining entry they began shooting and throwing grenades as they made their way to the command center. When they left they had killed one U.S. soldiers, wounded three, and kidnapped four more. As they were chased by the Iraqi forces they ended up ditching their vehicles and escaping. Three of the kidnapped Americans were found executed, while the fourth was mortally wounded and died soon afterward. Asaib Ahl Al-Haq was formed in 2006 by Moqtada al-Sadr, one of his lieutenants Qaiz Khazali, and Iran to carry out attacks upon the Americans, while denying Sadr’s involvement. This was their most dramatic act since they were formed and would set in motion a series of other kidnappings.

First, the leaders of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq were captured and revealed not only their role in the Karbala operation, but Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah’s as well. On March 20 the head of AAH Qais Khazali, his brother Laith Khazali, and Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq were captured in Basra by the British and turned over to the Americans. The Khazali brothers along with information captured with them showed that they were behind the Karbala raid, which was planned and assisted by Iran’s Quds Force and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The Iranians for example had collected extensive intelligence on the Karbala center. Daqduq was the deputy commander of Hezbollah’s Department 2800, which carried out foreign operations for the group, and was assigned by the Quds Force as a liaison between it and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq. After the arrests AAH halted all their operations in Iraq for several weeks as they attempted to deal with the loss of their leadership. Iran tried to come to its aid with another kidnapping.

On March 23, Iran stopped a British frigate in the Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra claiming that the vessel had crossed into its territory. The Iranians took 15 British Marines into custody and brought them to Tehran. It then let it be known that they would release the Brits in return for Qais Khazali. That failed, so a third round of kidnappings was carried out.

On May 29 around 100 men from Asaib Ahl Al-Haq rolled up to the Finance Ministry in Baghdad wearing Interior Ministry uniforms and driving the ubiquitous black SUVs. They entered the building and grabbed British IT technician Peter Moore, and his four bodyguards, Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell, Alec MacLachlan, and Alan McMenemy. They were taken to Sadr City, and then to Iran where the bodyguards were all eventually killed. Like the Karbala raid, the Quds Force planned the operation, and likely took custody of the five Brits. AAH used their offices in Qom, Iran to negotiate with the British Foreign Office demanding the release of Qais and Lais Khaali. That eventually happened in 2009. In March the U.S. released ten AAH leaders, which set in motion the freeing of Laith Khazali at the start of June, and then the bodies of Swindlehurst and Creswell were given to the British at the end of the month. 300 more AAH members were let go starting in August, and in return MacLachlan’s body was returned in September. Finally Peter Moore was let go in December, Qais Khazali in January 2010, while McMenemy’s body wasn’t turned over until January 2012. Eventually almost all of the AAH fighters were released by the Americans in what they called a reconciliation effort as the group claimed it would give up its arms and enter politics. After Qais was released Asaib Ahl Al-Haq reneged on that first promise, and would take up attacks on the Americans until its military withdrew in 2011. Today AAH remains opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq, and is still one of Iran’s main proxies in the country.


Alsumaria, “US Forces release 2 Asaib Ahl Al Haq members,” 7/30/09

August, Oliver, “End the torment, says Brown as death of British hostage is confirmed,” Times of London, 9/4/09

BBC, “Alan McMenemy ‘brutally murdered’ by kidnappers in Iraq, inquest finds,” 11/28/12

Cochrane, Marisa, “Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Khazali Special Groups network,” Institute for the Study of War,” 1/13/09

Cockburn, Patrick, “Revealed: why UK hostages were killed,” Independent, 7/10/09

Colvin, Marie, “Families told release of UK hostages not a done deal,” Times of London, 3/29/09

Gordon, Michael and Trainor, General Bernard, The Endgame, The Inside Story Of The Struggle For Iraq, From George W. Bush To Barack Obama, New York, Pantheon, 2012

Harari, Michal, “Status Update: Shi’a Militias in Iraq,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/16/10

Hendawi, Hamza and Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, “Hezbollah said to train Shiite militiamen in Iraq,” Associated Press, 7/1/08

Kagan, Kimberly, “Iran’s Proxy War against the United States and the Iraqi Government,” Institute for the Study of War, 8/20/07

Mahmood, Mona, O’Kane, Maggie, Grandjean, Guy, “Why Iran’s kidnap squad struck,” Guardian, 12/31/09

Rubin, Alissa and Gordon, Michael, “U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.’s,” New York Times, 6/9/09

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