Sunday, February 28, 2010

AFP - update on Issa Salomi

News is a bit slim but optimistic given the report of ongoing talks.

Iraq hopes kidnapped US translator to be freed 'soon'
AFP, February 28, 2010
Iraq is optimistic that a US translator kidnapped more than a month ago by a Shiite militant group will soon be freed, a national security adviser told AFP on Sunday.

Safa Hussein said a second American the militant group, the League of the Righteous, purports to be holding could also be released, but he admitted reports the hostage was dead could be true. [...]

Asked to give a time frame for Salomi's release, Hussein said he could not provide any details.

Hussein added the second American the League of the Righteous claims to hold, Sergeant Ahmed Qusai al-Taie, "will also be delivered" but again he did not say when.

Asked if Taie was dead, as has been reported in Iraqi media, Hussein replied: "We don't know for sure... There is no solid evidence. We don't have a proof of life, but we don't have anything to indicate that he is dead also."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Route Clemson

Learn something new every day.

The road between Tikrit and Kirkuk through the Jabal Hamrin mountain range was known to US military personnel as Alternative or Main Supply Route Clemson (ASR/MSR). Highway 1 headed south to Baghdad was apparently referred to as Route Tampa.

According to my handy dandy Dictionary of Military Terms taken from Joint Publications 1-01 & 1-02 of the US Department of Defense:
main supply route - The route or routes designated within an operational area upon which the bulk of traffic flows in support of military operations. (page 323 JP 1-02)
From what I can find online, at one point, there were at least three check points along MSR Clemson - one of which was little more than a mile or so from where Kirk von Ackermann's vehicle was found abandoned.

Just how busy was the supply route to Kirkuk in the fall of 2003?

Always questions.

Some References

Task Force Danger Press Release - reference on page 12
Headquarters, 1st Infantry Division, Tikrit, Iraq (FOB Danger)
November 21, 2004

Road Warriors: 50th MSB has logged plenty of miles in north-central Iraq
By Charlie Coon, Stars and Stripes, March 7, 2005

Troops receive explosive welcome south of Kirkuk
By Ben Murray, Stars and Stripes, October 6, 2006

Click the satellite photo in the right hand side bar if you wanna take a look at the area.

Monday, February 22, 2010

DoD Instruction 1300.18 - update

Wonk stuff.

New language and some new policies added as per 'Change 1' on August 14, 2009 to existing DoD Instruction 1300.18 aka "Personnel Casualty Matters, Policies, and Procedures" (See red text within the instruction for changes/additions/deletions) Enclosure 10 is the one I'm most interested in - 'Procedures for Notifying the Military Service Casualty Offices of Death Investigations.' It appears to be an entirely new addition to 1300.18.

Enclosure 10 is on the last page, page 62. Unfortunately, the language is a bit 'fuzzy' regarding who exactly is covered as 'authorized' 'personnel accompanying' US Armed Forces. For now, let's assume it covers private contractors.

(A note on fuzziness, I do find it fascinating that a bureaucracy as large as the Department of Defense isn't more narrow and specific in their use of language. It's like they don't do a simple cross check of their own terminology. Odd that.


DoD Instruction 1300.18 (PDF)
"Personnel Casualty Matters, Policies, and Procedures"
From the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, January 8, 2008
- replacing DoD Instruction 1300.18, “Military Personnel Casualty Matters, Policies, and Procedures,” December 18, 2000 (hereby canceled)


When an investigation into the cause or circumstances surrounding the death of a military member or DoD civilian employee who becomes a fatality while accompanying military personnel in the field or as a result of military-related actions is initiated, the appropriate Military Service Casualty Headquarters Office shall be notified immediately. At a minimum, the Casualty Office shall be provided written confirmation containing:
a. The name of the DoD organization conducting the investigation.
b. The type of investigation being conducted.
c. The existence of any reports by the investigating organization that have been or will be issued as a result of the investigation.
d. A point of contact within the investigating organization that can provide information on the status of the completion of any investigative reports.
e. The procedures for family members to obtain a copy of the completed report(s), to the extent such reports may be furnished consistent with sections 552 and 552a of Reference (h), and to obtain assistance in obtaining a copy of the completed report(s).
f. The procedures for family members to obtain answers to their questions on the completed investigation from a fully qualified representative.
At one point I contacted the Department of Defense to clarify some of the conflicting language within the Instruction and how it relates to the Missing Persons Act (see related posts below). Spoke at some length with a very nice man from Public Affairs who unfortunately, really didn't understand the core policy discrepancies within the Instruction. That wasn't really surprising given the wonkish nature of the subject but what was a shock was to learn there's only one person -- O.N.E. -- in all of Mortuary Affairs who can answer policy questions. Two wars, not to mention smaller conflicts - just one man. Obviously, he's a bit busy. Unfortunately, that also meant too busy to answer any of my questions.

Previous related posts

Defense Base Act vs War Hazards Compensation Act - non-hostile vs hostile Type of Casualty

Casualty Status of Missing - looks at Status and Category of a Casualty in DoD Instruction 1300.18

Iraq Contractors and The Missing Persons Act - outlines legal obligations of the US government

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


According to a recent article in The Australian, kidnapping as a new business venture is on the rise with 30-40,000 kidnappings estimated worldwide. There was a similar article in the Financial Times late last month. Depressing.

The business of kidnapping
By Joe Kelly, The Australian, February 17, 2010

John Chase is an expert in kidnap and ransom cases. The 48-year-old comes from an intelligence background, has more than 17 years' experience and is the managing director of crisis response at AKE group, which specialises in preparing people to enter some of the most hostile places on the planet. [...]

"There has to be a point where government's go to the families and say to those people very honestly, 'Look, we as governments cannot help you, but if you hire one of these internationally recognised companies you may be able to secure the release of your loved ones.' The hostages just went through such trauma in those first 339 days. It's not right."
Tales of the hostage negotiators
By James Boxell, Financial Times, January 21, 2010
As well as ransoms, insurance policies also cover psychological counselling for victims and families, media consultancy on reputation risk and the salary of replacement workers.
PS This is getting down into the weeds...but both of the above articles are in relation to hostage negotiators hired by insurance underwriters when a policyholder has been kidnapped. In other words, a company carries Kidnap & Ransom (K&R) on its employees working in risky environments - such as Iraq. Employees are not informed they are covered by kidnap risk insurance - a practice eerily similar to 'dead peasant' life insurance policies that pay employers benefits if an employee dies.

Under the Defense Base Act (DBA), when an American contractor pays an additional premium for war hazard risk - and I would imagine this includes kidnap risk - coverage under the DBA is exempt. Which raises the question of what kind of benefits kidnap risk policies pay and to whom. Are there survivor benefits for a hostage's family while they remain missing? Or are benefits paid out solely to the corporation?

Like I said above, depressing.

Editor's note: the Missing Man turned 5-years old with this post.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Uncertainty surrounding al-Taayie

Lots of uncertainty surrounding the status of missing linguist Sgt. Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie (alternative spellings: Ahmed K. Altaie, Ahmed Kousay al-Taie, Ahmad Qusay al-Ta’ae). What an emotional roller coaster for his family.

Rough timeline

October 23, 2006 Spc. Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie (also Ahmed K. Altaie) of Ann-Arbor, Michigan kidnapped with his brother-in-law. He was seized when he went to visit his Iraqi wife who was at the time with family in Karrada. The brother-in-law was quickly freed.

November 2, 2006 A family member reveals a ransom demand was made for $250,000.

February 14, 2007 A proof of life video released by the captors. Altaie has not been heard from since. Local media in Iraq later report that he was killed but there was no official confirmation.

At one point, al-Taayie's mother reported as traveling to Baghdad in an attempt to locate her son.

February 6, 2010 A senior leader of Shi'ite militia Asaib al-Haq (Leagues of the Righteousness) reports their group received the body of Sgt. Ahmed Qusay al-Taie from a second group and are negotiating its release. Leagues of the Righteousness is believed to be holding hostage Issa T. Salomi.

February 13, 2010 An anonymous US official is quoted in another article that there is no proof the Leagues of the Righteous hold al-Taie's body.

February 14, 2010 Three year anniversary of the release of the proof of life video.


No proof Iraqi militants hold second American: US official
AFP, February 13, 2010

Iraqi Shiite group says holding two Americans
AFP, February 7, 2010

Iraq group says it has kidnapped U.S. contractor
By Suadad al-Salhy, Reuters, February 6, 2010

A Ransom Demand for the Missing U.S. Soldier
By Brian Bennett, Time, November 2, 2006

Abducted Altaie Seen in Video - with updates
AII POW-MIA, February 14, 2007

Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie
Wikipedia, includes additional sources

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Former Xe guards asked to leave Iraq

This makes me uncomfortable, assuming the following dots do in fact connect. On the one hand, if it brings Salomi home safely, that's great news for he and his family. However, the precendent sets up a political dynamic that could quickly spiral out of hand for foreign workers in Iraq.

What am I referring to?

Less than a week after the discovery of online video footage of American-Iraqi hostage, Issa Salomi, 250 former Blackwater (now Xe) security guards have been asked to leave Iraq. One of the kidnappers' demands, as presented by Salomi in the online video, was "the expulsion of former Blackwater security guards."
Iraq expels 250 ex-Blackwater staff
Al Jazeera, February 12, 2010
Making the announcement on Thursday, Jawad Bolani, the interior minister, said: "We have sent an order to 250 former Blackwater employees, who today are working with other security companies in Iraq, to leave the country in seven days and we have confiscated their residence permits.
"All of those concerned were notified four days ago and so they have three days to leave. This decision was made in connection with the crime that took place at Nisur Square."
Bolani was referring to an incident at the busy Baghdad square in September 2007, when five guards employed by Blackwater were accused of killing 14 unarmed Iraqis in a gun and grenade attack, and wounding 18 others.
The same group believed behind the kidnapping of Issa Salomi, The League of the Righteous, recently released another hostage from, Peter Moore of the UK. Three of his bodyguards are dead, one remains missing. Moore's release came just after a jailed political leader affiliated with the League of the Righteous was transferred to Iraqi control.
Iraq hostage Peter Moore arrives back in UK
BBC, January 1, 2010
The release was thought to be connected Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib al-Haq, or the League of Righteousness, was transferred from US to Iraqi custody shortly before the release of Mr Moore.
Additional Reading
Iraq orders former Blackwater security guards out
By Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Washington Post, February 11, 2010

Kidnapping of American in Iraq sparked by faltering reconciliation talks
By Jane Arraf, Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 2010
Issa Salomi, a linguist working on an Army project to map tribal structures, was seized on January 23 while visiting relatives in the Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad, according to the US military. A Shiite extremist group, The League of the Righteous, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, (AAH) last week released a video of Mr. Salomi dressed in a US Army uniform and calling for the release of insurgents who fought American forces - and the expulsion of former Blackwater security guards.

Monday, February 08, 2010

18 Americans Missing in Iraq - February 2010

According to a new article out tonight, including the latest kidnapping victim, Issa T. Salomi, there are 18 Americans currently missing in Iraq.

That number increases to 21 if 3 hikers, currently detained, who crossed over the border into Iran are included. Of the 18, 2 are American service members (1 of whom would be Sgt. al-Taayie). An other article in the Washington Post states that Salomi's kidnapping is the first since the summer of 2008.

I am only aware of the names of 7 missing Americans:

Kirk von Ackermann (2003)
Timothy E. Bell (2004)
Aban Elias (2004)
Dean Sadek (2004)
Jeffrey Ake (2005)
Sgt. Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie (2006)
Issa T. Salomi (2010)

Attached is a chart showing the incident date, name and status of those missing. Technically, the status of 'released' should more properly be referred to as 'Returned to Military Control' (RMC).

As mentioned in a previous post, there is good reason to believe there are more Americans missing in Iraq than those who have been reported. Employers and family members may choose to keep quiet for a number of reasons (ransom, etc). Just to be clear, 41 is the minimum number of those reported to have been kidnapped in Iraq to date.

Not included in the chart (at this time) are the troops taken POW (status: missing) during the invasion of March 2003. All were Returned to Military Control:

Spc. Edgar Hernandez
Spc. Joseph Hudson
Spc. Shoshana Johnson
Pfc. Patrick Miller
Sgt. James Riley
Pfc. Jessica Lynch
Chief warrant officer David Williams
Chief warrant officer Ronald Young Jr.

Missing Navy pilot Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, killed during Gulf War I, is also not included. (Speicher's remains were recently recovered).

The Washington Post article goes on to describe yet another hostage group, this time referred to as a US-Iraq Personnel Recovery Division. (see previous posts on the Hostage Working Group aka Office of Hostage Affairs) Pardon my cynicism, but perhaps the US government should consider establishing a permanent hostage recovery office not subject to regular name changes.

They search if someone’s missing in Iraq
By Scott Fontaine, The News Tribune, February 8, 2010
“The search never stops,” Lt. Col. Patrick Wright, the outgoing director of the U.S. Forces-Iraq personnel recovery division, said during an interview last month from Baghdad’s Al Faw Palace, the headquarters of the American military in Iraq. “If someone’s missing, someone’s looking for them.”
Officials confirm kidnapping of U.S. contractor in Iraq
By Ernesto Londoño and Leila Fadel, Washington Post, February 6, 2010
The abduction of contractor Issa T. Salomi, 60, of El Cajon, Calif., marks the first reported kidnapping of an American in Iraq since the summer of 2008.
Related posts

American Missing in Iraq - November 2009
November 1, 2009

Click the tag 'missing' for more information.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Salomi and al-Taayie

Update on Issa Salomi from Reuters also includes new information on an American hostage missing since 2006.

Iraq group says it has kidnapped U.S. contractor
By Suadad al-Salhy, Reuters, February 6, 2010
A senior leader of Shi'ite militia Asaib al-Haq, or Leagues of Righteousness, said the abducted contractor, whom he did not name, was seized because the government was not keeping a promise to free Asaib al-Haq supporters from prison.

Such a deal was widely believed to have been behind the release by the same group of British computer programer Peter Moore in December after 2-1/2 years in captivity, despite Iraqi and British government denials of a link.

"The government is carrying out many violations against us," the militant leader told Reuters, asking not to be identified.
The Reuters article also includes new information on US Army linguist, Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie (also Ahmed K. Altaie) of Ann-Arbor, Michigan kidnapped on October 23, 2006. Al-Taayie was last seen alive when a proof of life video was released by his captors on February 14, 2007.
The Asaib al-Haq leader said his group was also negotiating with the Iraqi government over the handover of the body of a U.S. contractor kidnapped and killed in 2006 by another group.

He said his group had received the body of the contractor, identified as Ahmed Qusay al-Taie, from the other militant organization and would release it once it received an assurance from his wife that she would not sue Asaib al-Haq.
Update - more on the status of al-Taayie from another news story

Iraqi Shiite group says holding two Americans
AFP, February 7, 2010
The second American could be US army Sergeant Ahmed Qusai al-Taie, also of Iraqi origin, who was reported missing on October 23, 2006.

An undated and soundless video of him appeared on the US television network CNN in February the following year having first been posted on the Internet by the League of the Righteous.

Taie left the heavily-guarded international "Green Zone" in Baghdad without his superiors' permission to visit close relatives at a family home in Karrada.

Local media later reported that [al-Taayie] was killed but there has been no official confirmation.
The following information is from a previous post, National POW/MIA Recognition Day, September 19, 2008

Spc. Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie (also Ahmed K. Altaie) of Ann-Arbor, Michigan was kidnapped on October 23, 2006

41-year-old Specialist in the US Army. Altaie is a linguist (translator) with the Provincial Reconstruction Team Baghdad. Married. Altaie was kidnapped with his brother-in-law when he went to visit his wife in Baghdad. His brother-in-law was quickly freed. A ransom demand was made for $250,000. Altaie has not been heard from since a proof of life video was released by his captors on February 14, 2007.

A Ransom Demand for the Missing U.S. Soldier
By Brian Bennett, Time, November 2, 2006

Abducted Altaie Seen in Video - with updates
AII POW-MIA, February 14, 2007

Wikipedia, includes additional sources

Photo(s) were found publicly displayed on the web and are intended as "fair use" under Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. Please email me if you'd like a photo removed, changed, or added.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Contractor Kidnapped in Iraq

News report that Issa Salomi, 59, of El Cajon, California, has been kidnapped in Iraq. An Iraqi-American with dual citizenship, Salomi disappeared in Baghdad on January 23, 2010.

As of this evening, there are very few news stories on the kidnapping. A San Diego news station, KFMB, has video of Salomi from an Iraqi website. In the video, Salomi states he is being treated well, and makes several demands for his kidnappers.

KFMB, February 5, 2010

Sincere wishes for his safe return to family and friends.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Buried at Sundance

A new film, Buried, featuring an American contractor held hostage in Iraq screened at the Sundance Film Festival. For the entire film, the contractor, Paul Conroy, (played by actor Ryan Reynolds) is trapped in a coffin. Lionsgate picked up the film for distribution. Critics are hailing the film as brilliant.

Slashfilm has clips.

Buried Teaser Trailer and Clip: Will Ryan Reynolds Shine Underground?
By Russ Fischer, /Film, January 20, 2010

Sundance synopsis at IMDB:

U.S. contractor working in Iraq awakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it's a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap

Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Writer: Chris Sparling
Director of Photography: Eduard Grau
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ivana Mino, and Anne Lockhart, Stephen Tobolowsky
Interview with actor, Ryan Reynolds, and a short article on the film at Vanity Fair.

Buried: Ryan Reynolds's Break-Out (or Not!) Role
by Eric Kohn, Vanity Fair, February 1, 2010

At least six American men are known to still be missing in Iraq:
Kirk von Ackermann (2003)
Timothy E. Bell (2004)
Aban Elias (2004)
Dean Sadek (2004)
Jeffrey Ake (2005)
Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie (2006)

Monday, February 01, 2010

1459 Civilian Contractors Have Died in Iraq

Iraq: Key figures since the war began
By The Associated Press, Washington Post, February 1, 2010

Deaths of civilian employees of U.S. government contractors as of December 31, 2009: 1,459
The article doesn't include information on kidnappings and/or missing Americans.