Kurdistan security frees 3 abductees chained underground for 11 days
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Monday, security forces (Asayish) in the Kurdistan Region’s Garmyan Administration discovered an underground tunnel used by an unspecified armed group, freeing three individuals imprisoned inside and arresting at least some of those responsible for their abduction.
“After gaining intelligence about a tunnel in Sarqala sub-district in the district of Kifri, we approached the area and were able to arrest several suspects and find three individuals chained inside the tunnel that had been reported missing,” read a statement by Osman Abdul Karim, a spokesperson for Garmyan Asayish.
“Once we reached the tunnel, the culprits behind the abduction were gone. However, after sweeping the area, we arrested six militants.”
The tunnel is located in the Qawal village in the Dawda area of Kifri, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Two of the abductees are ethnic Arabs from Baghdad, while the third is a Kurd living in Erbil.
All three were kidnapped together in the Qadir Karam area of Chamchamal district. According to the spokesperson, the three individuals rescued from the tunnel were truck drivers that had been transporting meat and poultry products at the time of their capture. After their vehicles were found abandoned more than a week earlier, they were all reported missing to authorities.
Maher Ahmed, one of the abductees, told Kurdistan 24, “We were cut off by a car by three armed men who took us to the tunnel. They handcuffed us, chained our feet together, and fed us nothing but dates and water for eleven days.”
Peshtiwan Mahmood, the head of security in Saqala who also spoke to Kurdistan 24, said, “Arrest warrants were issued for 11 individuals who make up a gang that kidnaps citizens for ransom in the area. So far, we were able to arrest six of them and are currently on the lookout for the other five.”
Their release comes just one day after two Kurdish brothers who had been abducted two weeks earlier by members of the so-called Islamic State in rural parts of Garmiyan were reunited with family after paying $70,000 in ransom.
The Islamic State has routinely held captives from rural areas for ransom, often killing them even after family members had followed their demands for large amounts of money. They have also carried out hundreds of bombings in different parts of the country as they continue to wage an insurgency following their territorial collapse in Iraq in December 2017.
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The Garmiyan Administration is an unofficial province in the Kurdistan Region that includes the three districts of Kalar, Kifri, and Chamchamal, in territory disputed between Baghdad and Erbil.
Regional Kurdish Peshmerga and Asayish forces are in charge of security in Garmiyan, while national Iraqi forces control the region to its south and west.
KRG officials have repeatedly warned that the security vacuum in these areas created by the lack of coordination between the Kurdish and Iraqi forces offers extremist fighters the opportunity to regroup and stage such kidnappings as well as regular attacks in nearby populated areas.
Editing by John J. Catherine