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Saturday, June 18, 2005

MEDDLESOME SHEIKHS

Sheikh “Mission Accomplished” al-Hillali wasn’t the only shiekh involved in the Douglas Wood kidnapping case, as Paul McGeough reports:

Even before the Australian taskforce had arrived in Baghdad, Sheik Zadaan had promised, in an interview with the Herald, to rescue Mr Wood. His account of his subsequent contact with the kidnappers was the first confirmation Mr Wood was alive. He said he had appointed a senior aide to attempt negotiations and was confident of an early release.
Sheikhs tend to say a lot of stuff, as we’ve recently discovered. According to McGeough, Australian forces weren’t convinced of Zadaan’s goodwill:

Nine days into Douglas Wood’s captivity, Australian troops raided the palatial Baghdad home of Sheik Hassan Zadaan late at night, in an apparent attempt to rescue the hostage.

The prominent tribal sheik claims he, his son and nine of his household guard were held at a detention centre in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where Australians - civilian and military - and Americans interrogated him for five days on the whereabouts of the 63-year-old Australian.

This excellent pro-active approach was a bad thing, claims McGeough:

The raid shut down what at the time was the only known channel of communications to Mr Wood’s captors, leaving the ailing engineer and his anxious family dangling for another 10 days before contact was re-established by others - including a brief phone conversation with someone thought to be Mr Wood.

Sheik Zadaan has not spoken publicly since his release but Iraqis who have talked to him say he is bitter about the raid. He claimed $US228,000 had been confiscated from a safe in his home and that his son, 33, was released from custody with his leg in plaster.

I wonder where that money came from. Not mentioned anywhere in this piece, although McGeough knows of it, is Zadaan’s interesting background: “Sheik Zadaan is a controversial but influential Sunni figure in Baghdad. A chief of the Al-Lehabi tribe, he was a general in the army of the former dictator Saddam Hussein.” Instead, McGeough runs a friendly character reference:
Saleh Mutlak, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Dialogue Council, told the Herald before Mr Wood’s release: “I know that Hassan Zadaan can never be linked to terrorists and he was in no way connected with the abduction of Douglas Wood. Sadly, I think these attacks will spoil any effort by others to help Douglas Wood."
Note that McGeough refers to Wood’s rescue as his “release”. Who released him? Desperate to nail a negative angle, McGeough concludes:
Jabar Abu Natiha, a senior Iraqi police official with direct responsibility for hostage cases, said: “If I try to block the sheiks or imams, I end up cutting the negotiation … Other sheiks will be too frightened to help now."
Good.

Posted by Tim B. on 06/18/2005 at 10:34 AM
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