An Iranian-backed Shia terror group that claims it seeks reconciliation with the Iraqi government has kidnapped a US civilian in Baghdad. The US recently released the top leader of the group under the guise of a reconciliation program, but the release actually was related to a hostage exchange.
The Asaib al Haq, or the League of the Righteous, kidnapped Issa T. Salomi, a US civilian contractor, in Baghdad in late January. Salomi went missing in Baghdad sometime after Jan. 23, the US Department of Defense noted in a press release on Friday.
The League of the Righteous issued a videotape of Salomi, who is pictured in US Army digital fatigues in front of a banner that reads “League of the Righteous, Imam Ali Regiment.”
The League of the Righteous has demanded that the Iraqi government release all members of the League and “bring the proper justice and the proper punishment to those members of Blackwater company that have committed unjustifiable crimes against innocent Iraqi civilians,” according to a partial translation provided by The Associated Press.
The kidnapping of the US contractor comes just a little more than a month after the US military released Qaiz Qazali, the leader of the League of the Righteous. Qazali was behind the kidnapping and murder of five US soldiers in Karbala in January 2007 and numerous other acts of terrorism before he was captured in March 2007.
Qazali was released in late December 2009, purportedly as part of a reconciliation process, which the League has suspended this week as it claims the Iraqi government will not free all of its members.
But Qazali was released at the same time that a British contractor, who had been captured by the League of the Righteous in May of 2007, was turned over to the British. The Shia terror group previously executed four other British contractors who had also been held hostage.
The release of Qazali and his brother Laith, who was freed in July 2009 along with more than 100 other members of the group, has angered US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal. At the time of Qazali’s release, US military and intelligence officials said that the reconciliation program was an excuse to conduct a hostage exchange and warned that the group would return to terrorism.
“The official line is the release of Qazali is about reconciliation, but in reality this was a prisoner swap,” a military intelligence official said after Qazali’s release in December. Another military officer described Qazali’s release as “a deal signed and sealed in British and American blood,”
The kidnapping of the US contractor is seen as evidence the League of the Righteous has no intentions of reconciling as claimed and will continue to use violence to achieve their ends.
“We’ve been had,” a senior military officer told The Long War Journal. “Anyone who closely followed the League of the Righteous should have known this was inevitable.”