I wanted to start a list for all those contractors and civilians that are still missing or are prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. I should note that there is one MIA soldier in Iraq, and there is one soldier that is a prisoner of war in Afghanistan. But this post is dedicated to the contractors and civilians that far out number the military in terms of MIA or POW.
Of course these folks are all considered hostages by the Hostage Working Group in Iraq, and I assume there is a Hostage Working Group in Afghanistan. I choose to call them POW’s and MIA’s, despite how some might disagree with this classification.
The thing that concerns me the most right now about the situation in both countries, is as the wars wind down and western forces leave, these POW’s and MIA’s will still be there. Although contractors will still be hanging around in those war zones for some time after, and the threats are still there.
So with that said, I wanted to also put this post up top as a page with the hope that contractors or military folks out there will not forget about these missing or captured heroes. Better yet, if folks have any input or tips or anything in regards to these cases, they know where to go to get their voices heard. Just write me, or make a comment on that page and help correct the record or bring attention to this.
The other thing that gets me here is the lack of accountability. The article below mentions 7 civilians/contractors missing in Iraq, and not 5 like wikipedia has mentioned. I imagine the overall numbers are not correct for the other countries missing people. Nor do these statistics go into how many local nationals are missing or are prisoners. Local nationals certainly contributed in these wars as contractors or as government soldiers, and their sacrifice should not be forgotten or ignored.
Never forget, and let’s get these folks home. –Matt
Contractors and Civilians Missing or Captured in Iraq (from Wikipedia)
5 Americans (7 according to the article below)
Kirk von Ackermann, disappeared on October 9, 2003 after leaving a meeting at FOB Pacesetter. His vehicle was found abandoned later that same day. He is presumed dead.
Timothy Bell, a contractor for Halliburton, went missing on April 9, 2004. He was never shown in a hostage video and is presumed dead.
Aban Elias, an Iraqi-American engineer from Denver, was shown being held hostage in a video on May 3, 2004. He has not been seen or heard from since.
Radim Sadeq Mohammed Sadeq, also called “Dean Sadek”, a businessman kidnapped on November 2, 2004, in Baghdad. He was shown in a video that month and in another video dated Christmas Eve but released in late January on NBC. He has not been seen or heard from since. His kidnappers demanded the release of Iraqi prisoners.
Jeffrey Ake, a contractor, was kidnapped on April 11, 2005, and shown in a videotape two days later. He has not been seen or heard from since. His kidnappers contacted his wife on the day he was kidnapped and demanded $1 million dollars in exchange for his release. After three weeks of negotiations, the kidnappers cut off all communication.
4 South Africans
Andre Durant, Callie Scheepers, Hardus Greeff and Johann Enslin, four contractors, were abducted at a bogus roadblock in Baghdad by unidentified men on December 10, 2006, along with five Iraqis. The Iraqis were released two days later. The kidnappers demanded $8 million ransom. Ten days after the abduction, Andre spoke to his wife briefly in a “proof of life” phone call. There were some talks that these four were still alive in January 2007, but since then there has been no word on their fate.
Samuel Edward, an engineer working for Iraqna Mobile Company, was kidnapped on September 26, 2005, in Baghdad. His Iraqi driver was left unharmed.
Sinan Krause, a technician at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, was kidnapped on February 6, 2007, with his mother Hannelore in Baghdad. Their kidnappers demanded that Germany withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Hannelore was released on July 10, 2007, but Sinan Krause hasn’t been seen or heard from since a video was released on September 11, 2007. The video was recorded before Hannelore was released. It showed Sinan saying goodbye to his mother. Their kidnappers issued a final 10 day deadline in the video for Germany to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. They threatened to slit Sinan’s throat if their demand was not met. On April 24, 2008, his father appealed to the captors to release his son. The kidnappers ignored the plea.
Moses Munyao and George Noballa, engineers from the Iraqna telephone company, were reported kidnapped after an ambush on January 18, 2006. They were never found.
Rami Daas, a 26 year-old Palestinian student, was reported kidnapped by his family on May 9, 2005, by gunmen in the northern city of Mosul. His fate is unknown.
Contractors and Civilians Missing or Captured in Afghanistan (from Wikipedia)
Imam Uddin, Mahbub Ali, Aminul Islam, “Lablu” and Mojibur Rahman of the Samwhan Corporation were five of seven workers kidnapped on Dec. 17, 2010 near Mazar-i-Sharif.
Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere, journalists for France 3, were taken hostage along with their translator, editorial fixer and driver by the Taliban in Afghanistan on December 30, 2009 They are the longest held foreign hostages in Afghanistan.
Ten engineers were abducted in Farah Province near the border with Iran.
Randy Bergquist was a former U.S. Marine who served multiple tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. Retiring in 2007, he worked as a civilian contractor for Avenge Inc., a private subcontractor of Lockheed Martin based in Sterling, Va., that specializes in military flight operations.Randy Bergquist, 53, had told his family he would soon retire. There were plans to move from Orange Park, Fla., to just outside Asheville, all the better for the Bergquists to come to Raleigh and see their son play for N.C. State.But during October 2009, Randy Bergquist was reported missing. He had been flying a surveillance plane in southeastern Afghanistan, supporting NATO forces, with two other private contractors. (source here, h/t to Defense Base Act Comp Blog)
With Withdrawal Looming, Trails Grow Cold for Americans Missing in Iraq
By JACK HEALY
May 21, 2011
BAGHDAD — The last Americans missing in Iraq followed disparate paths to an uncertain fate. They arrived from Indiana and North Carolina, Chicago and Denver. They came out of a sense of duty, in search of a paycheck, or hoping to reclaim a homeland they had fled decades earlier.
But the lives of the eight men — seven private contractors and the only American service member who remains unaccounted — are a painful fragment of the war’s legacy, a haunting piece of unfinished business that the military will leave behind when it withdraws by the end of the year.
“He called and said, ‘I’m catching a plane tomorrow and I’ll be home,’ ” said Jim Ake, whose son Jeffrey, a businessman from Indiana, vanished in 2005. “It didn’t happen. That was the last we heard from him.”
Like scores of other tasks — running convoys, flying helicopters and tracking incoming mortar fire — the military will soon leave the job of determining the fates of the missing largely to civilians. The military is still finalizing its plans, but the cases of the seven contractors are expected to be handed over to the American Embassy, with the missing soldier’s case going to the United States Central Command.
“It’s not like anybody’s saying, ‘O.K., we’re done, let’s forget these guys,’ ” said Col. Michael Infanti, who supervised a unit that searches for the missing. “It ain’t happening.”
Even so, hope has drifted into a nagging uncertainty about the men’s fates, leaving families afraid that they will never find answers. Relatives who once received daily updates from F.B.I. agents and diplomats now go months without hearing from investigators. When they do, there are few breakthroughs. Years have passed without fresh leads, videos or phone calls from their kidnappers.
“We don’t know if he’s dead or alive,” said Kazwan Elias, whose brother, Aban, an Iraqi-American engineer from Denver, was kidnapped seven years ago. “We don’t know if they beheaded him or he’s in a jail somewhere. We just don’t know.”
The military has declared other kidnapping victims dead, even without recovering their bodies, and some family members have bowed to what seems like that inevitable conclusion. Others, though, hang their hopes on the transom between an administrative classification of “missing” and “deceased.”
In a fifth-floor Baghdad apartment overlooking the American Embassy and the heavily secured Green Zone, Sabriya Mahdi Naama clutches the belief that her husband, Abbas Kareem Naama, who was known as Tim, is alive after more than five years missing.
“I still believe he’s somewhere,” Ms. Naama said. “I am sure.”
Mr. Naama was a colonel in Saddam Hussein’s army who fled Iraq with his family in 1991, settling in San Diego. They became naturalized American citizens and supported Mr. Hussein’s ouster.
Mr. Naama met with Pentagon officials before the war, his family said, and his grown daughter wrote op-ed articles calling for the liberation of Iraq’s people.
In 2003, he returned to Iraq on the heels of the American Army. After a brief stint with the Coalition Provisional Authority, Mr. Naama, who was also a pharmacist, went to work with the health office of Iraq’s Defense Ministry, his family said.
He was taken one morning in 2005 as he left home to buy a newspaper. He was 58.
Three months later, the family received a phone call demanding $150,000 in ransom. They did not know who the callers were — Al Qaeda? The Shiite militias from the slums of Sadr City? — or if they were even the real kidnappers. But the family decided to pay them anyway, dropping off the money near an old soda factory.
Numerically speaking, the missing Americans — Jeffrey Ake, Aban Elias, Abbas Kareem Naama, Neenus Khoshaba, Bob Hamze, Dean Sadek, Hussain al-Zurufi and Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie — are little more than a footnote in Iraq. Their number pales in comparison to the thousands of Iraqis who disappeared during the bloodletting following the United States invasion. More than 10,000 Iraqis were kidnapped by criminal gangs, Sunni extremist groups and Shiite militias during the bloodiest years of sectarian fighting.
Iraq remains battered by the losses. Parents, siblings and children still line up at morgues to page through photo albums of the nameless dead. Farmers, construction workers and government investigators regularly unearth mass graves filled with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of bodies. There is even a television show devoted to tracking down the vanished.
The only American service member among the missing is Sergeant Altaie, whose family fled Iraq when he was 9 years old and settled in Ann Arbor, Mich. Some combination of homesickness and a love for both the United States and Iraq spurred him to join the Army in 2004, and he deployed to Baghdad the next year.
He frequently went “outside the wire” of the military bases to meet his wife, whom he had met on an earlier trip to Baghdad, family members said. One night in October 2006, while visiting his wife’s apartment in Baghdad’s cosmopolitan Karada neighborhood, a gang grabbed him and shoved him into a car.
A few months later, Intifadh Qanbar, an uncle in Baghdad, said, a nine-second video of a man who appeared to be Sergeant Altaie was posted on a jihadist Web site. He looked thinner and haggard, and spoke into the camera. The video had no sound, so his last recorded words were a mystery.
“He never came back,” said Mr. Qanbar, who has been closely involved in the case.
Mr. Qanbar, who works as an aide to the Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi, parlayed his connections to try to find Sergeant Altaie. He said he spoke with detained insurgent leaders in jail and wrote letters to kidnappers, promising to forgo vengeance for any word on his nephew’s whereabouts.
“I was so close to getting him out so many times,” Mr. Qanbar said. “I could feel it.”
But he said he kept losing the trail.
Jeffrey Ake, the Indiana businessman, had traveled safely through Iraq once before, and believed he could navigate its treacheries. In 2005, a day before he was to fly home from his second trip to Iraq, a group of men stormed the water-bottling plant where he had been working and whisked Mr. Ake away.
The next weeks were a frenzy of hope and fear.
Mr. Ake’s captors called his family in La Porte, Ind., and — with the F.B.I. listening in — demanded a ransom of $2 million, Mr. Ake’s father, Jim, said. The family asked for proof that Mr. Ake was alive, testing the kidnappers by asking for the name of a family dog. When they heard the answer — “Gizmo” — they knew.
“He was alive,” Jim Ake said.
But when the military raced to the coordinates of the traced call, they found nothing more than a cellphone lying by the road.
The kidnappers stopped calling, and the trail went cold. As months, then years, passed, the family sold Jeffrey Ake’s business, and the elder Mr. Ake said he turned his attention to helping his son’s wife and four children, getting them to piano lessons and basketball games.
“You just do what has to be done,” he said. “It’s so sad that this could ever happen, but it happened. You have to get on with it.”