Tuesday, August 16, 2005

2 Iranian dissidents abducted in [Iraq] capital

The Washington Times
Tue. 16 Aug 2005
By Sharon Behn

U.S. officials said yesterday that two members of an Iranian dissident group living under American protection in Iraq have been kidnapped, and organization members said they fear the men will be turned over to Tehran for execution.

The members of the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) were grabbed while they were purchasing supplies in Baghdad's Karrada shopping district on Aug. 4, said the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq.

A PMOI spokesman said they had been escorted on the shopping trip by U.S. military police and were seized by eight men in police uniforms.

PMOI member Hussein Madani said witnesses saw Hussein Pouyan and Mohammad Ali Zahedi bundled out of the back door of the Ministry of Interior later that day and placed into two white sport utility vehicles with tinted windows.

The group, also known as Mojahedin-e Khalq or People's Mojahedin, has long been on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations because of attacks on Americans in Iran in the 1970s. But the group, fierce opponents of Iran's clerical regime, also has been an important source of intelligence on Tehran's nuclear program and has many supporters in Congress.

Rep. Edolphus Towns, New York Democrat, wrote to Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari late last week urging him to protect the two men. The PMOI thinks they were seized at Iran's bidding.

"It is of great importance that you safeguard the lives of these two dissidents and be sure that they will be returned to Camp Ashra[f]," said Mr. Towns in a letter on Friday made available by the PMOI.

"We ask you not to allow the actions of the Iranian leaders adversely affect the Iraq people," Mr. Towns wrote.

PMOI members live under U.S. protection in Camp Ashraf outside Baghdad. All 3,600 members are considered "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which establishes the rights of civilians and noncombatants in times of war.

The coalition said Iraqi police had been asked to investigate the "abduction" of the two men while on "a routine logistics trip" in eastern Baghdad.

"Officials are undertaking a complete review of security risks and procedures in relation to trips off of Camp Ashraf in light of the abduction," the coalition said.

Mr. Madani, speaking by telephone from Baghdad, said Mr. Pouyan and Mr. Zahedi were under U.S. military police escort when two cars with police markings drove up. Eight men in police uniforms and protective vests jumped out and grabbed the two, he said.

He said witnesses identified the abductors as members of the Ministry of Interior's special security forces, which are made up largely of the Iranian-trained Badr Corps -- the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the leading political party in Iraq's ruling alliance.

Mr. Madani said the U.S. escorts were close by but not next to the two men when they were seized. He said the Americans went to a local police station and the Ministry of Interior to ask about Mr. Pouyan and Mr. Zahedi but did not find them.

"We have spoken to many local shop owners and witnesses, and some security elements ... and they believe the individuals were with the Ninth Badr Corps and acting under the auspices of the [Ministry of the Interior]," he said.

Citing witnesses, Mr. Madani said the two were taken in separate police cars between 1 and 1:15 p.m. to the fourth floor of the ministry building and within the hour taken out by the back door.

"They were taken to safe houses in Baghdad," said Mr. Madani, citing military and intelligence officials. He suspects the kidnapping was not the work of ordinary criminals, but was politically motivated.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Iranian politicians disappear in Iraq

Associated Press
Aug 15, 2005

BAGHDAD - The US military says it is investigating the apparent kidnapping of two Iranian opposition members who disappeared weeks ago in Baghdad and it's demanding their release.

The People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran, or Mujahideen Khalq, had said two of its members were kidnapped by Iraqi interior ministry special forces troops, but ministry officials said they had no information about the abductions.

The US military has now confirmed the abduction and said it was working to release the men, adding that it had checked interior ministry units and stations for information.
Iraqi police have also been asked to help secure the men's release, the military said.

The two men were kidnapped on August 4 while on a logistics trip to the capital, the military said.

A security review was under way due to the kidnappings, the military said, which considers members of the group protected persons under the Geneva Convention.

The Mujahideen Khalq was founded in the late 1960s and moved to Iraq in the early 1980s after it fell out with the clerical regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The movement used Iraq as a base for operations against Iran's government.

US forces disarmed the group's fighters after the 2003 US-led invasion. More than 3,000 of its members live in Camp Ashraf, which is under American military control. The group had sided with Iraq in its 1980-88 war against Iran.

Iranian Opposition Members Kidnapped

American Forces Press Service
August 15, 2005

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2005 – … In eastern Baghdad, two members of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq were abducted on Aug. 4 while on a routine logistics trip to the city, officials reported.

The MEK have been considered protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which relates to the protection of civilians during times of war, since June 2004. The group relinquished its weapons, including tanks, armored vehicles, and heavy artillery, under a cease-fire agreement.

Several thousand MEK members are confined to Camp Ashraf, the MEK's main compound north of Baghdad, where they remain under coalition control.

"Multinational Force Iraq strongly condemns the abduction of persons protected by the Geneva Convention," MNFI officials said in a statement.

Upon learning of the abduction, MNFI officials immediately requested that the Iraqi police investigate the abduction, and are assisting in attempts to find the missing men. MNFI units have checked with numerous police and Ministry of Interior units and stations and have notified the MNFI hostage working group.

Officials are undertaking a complete review of security risks and procedures in relation to trips off Camp Ashraf by MEK members in light of the abduction.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Task Force Baghdad news releases.)

Multinational Force in Iraq lashes out at abduction of Iran dissidents

Iran Focus
Mon. 15 Aug 2005

Baghdad, Aug. 15 - The Multinational Force in Iraq on Sunday strongly condemned the abduction earlier this month of two Iranian dissidents who were protected persons under the Geneva Conventions.

The U.S.-led force announced that the two members of the opposition group People's Mojahedin or Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MeK) were abducted on August 4 in eastern Baghdad while on a routine logistics trip to Baghdad.

The Multinational Force in Iraq said that it "strongly condemns the abduction of persons protected by the Geneva Convention".

"Upon learning of the abduction, MNF-I immediately requested that the Iraqi Police investigate the abduction, and is assisting in attempting to find the missing men. MNF-I units have checked with numerous police and Ministry of Interior units and stations, and have notified the MNF-I hostage working group", the force said in a statement.

The Multinational Force’s working group on hostages has been the lead agency dealing with previous cases of hostage-taking in Iraq, including the abduction of several Western journalists. The statement indicated that the U.S.-led force is treating the abduction of the two Iranian dissidents as a hostage issue.

The Multinational Force’s press release, posted on its website, said that the MeK have been considered protected persons under the fourth Geneva Convention since June 2004.

The U.S. military earlier confirmed the abduction and said it was working to secure the men’s release.

The MeK named the abducted men as Hossein Pouyan and Mohammad-Ali Zahedi. Both men, who are in their forties, are long-time opponents of Iran’s religious government and face severe consequences if returned to Iran, the group said.