The two-and-a-half year nightmare that a British man suffered has ended. Now, we’re learning how that nightmare may have begun. Computer specialist Peter Moore and his four bodyguards were kidnapped from an Iraqi government ministry in 2007. Three of the bodyguards died in captivity. And the fourth is believed to be dead. Peter Moore was freed yesterday. A British newspaper, The Guardian, is reporting that Iran masterminded the kidnapping. Maggie O’Kane is the part of the team that broke the story.
Listen to reporter Maggie O’Kane describes how she and her colleagues put their story together for The Guardian:
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JEB SHARP: I’m Jeb Sharp and this The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. The two and a half year nightmare that a British man suffered has ended. Now we’re learning how that nightmare may have begun. Computer specialist, Peter Moore and his four bodyguards were kidnapped from an Iraqi government ministry in 2007. Three of the bodyguards died in captivity and the fourth is believed to be dead. Peter Moore was freed yesterday. Today, a British newspaper, The Guardian, is reporting that Iran masterminded the kidnapping and that the hostages were taken to Iran. Maggie O’Kane is part of the team that broke the story. She’s currently in France. Maggie, what’s the story in a nutshell here? Who kidnapped these men and why?
MAGGIE O’KANE: Well we believe that the Iranian [SOUNDS LIKE] Al-Khutes force was involved in the kidnapping of the five British hostages. It was part of a ranking up of hostilities between Iran, America and Britain, following Bush’s announcement of the surge strategy in which he accused Iran of funding, supporting and essentially creating these special groups that were operating in Iraq. So immediately after that statement was made, a number of Iranian diplomats who were also Al-Khutes forces, were arrested in Iraq and this began a sort of snowball of tit-for-tat kidnapping which included a very serious kidnap attempt against five American soldiers of Karbala in which the Al-Khutes force actually murdered their captives.
SHARP: I just want to clarify when you say Al-Khutes, we’re talking about the Iranian revolutionary guard?
O’KANE: Yeah and the Al-Khutes force is the sort of overseas branch of the Iranian revolutionary guard that answers directly to the Iranian government.
SHARP: So we think of kidnapping or we’ve come to think of it as the preserve of terrorist groups but the picture you’re painting is of big power relations. Does this fit with Iran’s MO to actually capture foreign citizens and take them to Iran?
O’KANE: You know we have to look back at what was happening in Beirut during the eighties when we had proxy militia groups like Hezbollah which were also connected with Iran that were involved in the taking of a number of hostages, including Terry Anderson, the American, Terry Wade, Joe McCarthy, so it’s not unprecedented. So we know that Iran has been heavily involved in Iraq. What was interesting and extraordinary about this kidnap was that the Al-Khutes force actually took part and led the special groups in the kidnapping of the British men.
SHARP: And tell us a bit more about the implications of that. I mean it’s good news Peter Moore’s been freed, but his bodyguards were actually killed and if this was indeed orchestrated and led by the revolutionary guard, that’s an arm of the Iranian state.
O’KANE: Well I mean to be honest, I feel uncomfortable talking about the implications of that. That’s something that the British foreign office has to look at, the Iranians, also the Iraqi government because in a previous investigation which The Guardian carried out, we discovered that there was collusion between people at the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior and also within the Iraqi intelligence in covering up the fact that Iran was involved in the taking of the hostages so I mean there are serious questions to be asked. I think what we have uncovered is that the Al-Khutes forces have been indirectly involved in at least two operations, the taking of the American soldiers at Karbala and the murdering of them and now the British hostages.
SHARP: It’s very interesting then that the British government has been so insistent that this was an Iraqi operation.
O’KANE: Well the British government, it was very interesting to speak to the foreign office. One of the things that we find throughout this investigation is that they have consistently said to us they have no evidence that they were held in Iran, yet the former foreign office minister, Ken Howells has said that he believes that they were held in Iran and I think it produces political difficulties at a time when a nuclear issue is much more to the forefront in Britain and is concerned about our relations with Iran but I mean, that is not something I want to speculate on. The foreign officers saying they don’t have the evidence, I believe that after 18 months of this investigation, that we have put together a credible, well thought account of a kidnapping that was led by the Al-Khutes force and of how the British men were taken and held in Iran.
SHARP: Maggie O’Kane writes for The Guardian newspaper in the UK. Maggie, thanks so much.
O’KANE: Thank you.
SHARP: Maggie O’Kane discusses the sources for her story at TheWorld.org. There’s also a link to the full Guardian article there.
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