London, Asharq Al Awsat – Iraqi politician, Intifad Qanbar, confirmed to Asharq Al Awsat that his nephew Ahmed Qusay al Taayie, a 41-year-old US soldier of Iraqi descent, remains in captivity but that he is still negotiating with the kidnappers. Qanbar added that the American forces will not forsake their soldier.
In an exclusive telephone interview from Amman, Qanbar told Asharq Al Awsat yesterday, 3 November, 2006, “I requested that the kidnappers confirm that Ahmed was still alive either by putting him on the phone or by presenting us with his most recent picture since being taken hostage. I gave them until tomorrow afternoon [4 November] as a condition to continue negotiations with them.” He revealed that “the kidnappers have displayed extreme intelligence and caution in their dealings. It is obvious that their expertise in intelligence is a force to be reckoned with.”
At a press conference held yesterday Major General William Caldwell, the chief US military spokesman said, “We believe he is still with the kidnappers,” also confirming that “there has been contact between his family and the kidnappers using his cell phone.” He stated that US commanders had been in contact with certain individuals connected with al Taayie’s abduction but that “it would be inappropriate to say with whom and at what level.”
Qanbar added, “my negotiations with the kidnappers came after a lot of hardships and they are difficult and challenging as they are incredibly smart and wary. They do not contact us directly, nor do we have a way of reaching them, however the middleman has confirmed that he had either seen Ahmed [the kidnapped soldier] or at least seen a recent picture after the kidnapping.”
Qanbar affirmed that “Israa, Ahmed’s wife, is not implicated in the kidnapping, but that she was negligent.” He revealed that his nephew’s kidnapper is Israa’s brother’s friend, Majeed al Qaysee, who goes by the epithet Abu Ramy, adding that he was a Baathist leader who used to work for the Mahdi army but was expelled after four months, however, he remains influential and powerful. He was also said to be Sunni and has 300 followers. Qanbar added, “That is what is strange. How can a Sunni join the Mahdi army? I think he is tied by certain loyalties to the former regime.” He also upheld Israa’s brother’s innocence from the kidnapping and confirmed that Israa remains in American custody.
Qanbar, the Iraqi politician who used to live in the US and was against Saddam’s regime said, “I do not wish to reveal the nature of my familial relationship with Ahmed so that it would not be taken advantage of, especially when my name has appeared on the Baathist wanted list. Unfortunately, we have had to ask an Iraqi politician to act as a mediator with the Mahdi army as he is close to it so we can help free my nephew. Instead of mediating, this politician appeared on a televison program and exposed my relationship with Ahmed, saying that I was his uncle and that I had gone to him for help.” Qanbar continued to say that “this politician had refused to help Ahmed, based on the claim that he was an American soldier, when in fact, this politician regularly meets with the Americans and resides in the fortified Green Zone, which is protected by American soldiers.”
But matters get more complicated: Qanbar affirmed that, “the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of a quarter of a million dollars but had not insisted upon it because the matter had always been political in the first place.” He expressed his optimism regarding his nephew’s return, saying: “I believe we can reach a solution with the kidnappers.”
Al Taayie’s uncle confirmed that Ahmed was ‘married to an American woman and that he had married Israa two years ago.” US military spokesman Major General Caldwell confirmed that fact adding that he had been married before he arrived in Iraq as a soldier for the first time last November. He also added that al Taayie “had moved to the States when he was an adolescent” and that he “came with the army as a linguist and translator and as part of the team”. He was serving on reserve duty in 2004 until he came to serve in Iraq in November 2005.