Saturday, July 24, 2004

The Hostage Game Continues

An Egyptian diplomat was kidnapped and new demands for money were made on the truck drivers who had recently been taken hostage. It is worth noting that neither Egypt nor the truck driver nationals are part of the "Coalition of the Willing". Sky news reports:

An armed group has kidnapped an Egyptian diplomat in Iraq, according to a video tape shown on the Al-Jazeera Arab network. A man identified as Mohammed Mamdouh Hilmi Kotb, a third most senior official at the embassy in Baghdad, was shown on the footage sitting in front of six masked armed men dressed head-to-toe in black.

Kotb was purportedly kidnapped by a group called the Lions of Allah in response to Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif's offer to Iraq of his country's security expertise. Staff at the embassy confirmed a diplomat had been abducted.

Meanwhile, a group in Iraq which has threatened to behead seven foreign hostages has issued a new 48-hour deadline. The new ultimatum was made to the hostages' Kuwaiti employers and they demanded that Iraqi prisoners are freed, according to Al Jazeera television. The TV station said that the group has given 48 hours to meet demands that the company pays compensation to the families of the dead in Falluja and Iraqi prisoners in American and Kuwait jails.

Egypt had previously refused to join the US coalition and merely offered to guard any UN premises in Iraq. According to the Washington Times:

Egypt expressed in the past its readiness to dispatch a small contingent to Iraq to guard U.N. offices and centers, but Presidential spokesman Majed Abdel Fatah said Wednesday that the Egyptian troops will not be part of the multinational force and their mission will be strictly limited to protecting U.N. premises.

However, Egypt and all of Iraq's Arab neighbors had recently met to control illegal border crossings in the region. According to the Financial Times:

Iraq's neighbours agreed in Cairo yesterday to try to co-operate more closely on security and in controlling their common borders. "Iraq has all it wants," said Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, as he left a meeting in the Egyptian capital where he met foreign ministers from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Mr Zebari said Iran had offered to host a meeting of interior ministers from the eight countries in which more detailed plans for addressing common security issues and sharing intelligence would be discussed.

Ever since the Philippines capitulated to terrorists in Iraq armed gangs in the region have been ever more ready to intimidate sovereign governments and extort money. The Arroyo surrender differs qualitatively from the Spanish case because Zapatero had already announced his intention to withdraw Spanish troops long before the Madrid attack of March 11, 2004. In the case of the Philippines that sovereign nation, which guards its "dignity" and "sovereignty" jealously when dealing with the United States, obsequiously bowed and scraped before a nameless group of extortionists. Its Deputy Foreign Secretary, Rafael Seguis addressed the kidnappers in tones so craven it is hard to imagine them being spoken to an American ambassador. According to Reuters:

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of Philippine deputy foreign minister Rafael Seguis reading out a statement, which the television station translated into Arabic, shortly after the expiry of a new execution deadline set by the militants. "In response to your request, the Philippines ... will withdraw its humanitarian forces as soon as possible," Seguis said according to the translation of the statement, addressed to the Islamic Army in Iraq group holding 46-year-old de la Cruz. "I hope the statement that I read will touch the heart of this group," said Seguis. "We know that Islam is the religion of peace and mercy."

The hostage taking game had begun to taper off before the Philippines gave it renewed impetus; an externality to its behavior of convenience that must now be cleaned up by others.