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40 Abducted in Two Baghdad Terrorist Operations

Monday has seen yet another mass kidnapping in Iraq, seemingly al-Qaeda in Iraq making good on al-Masri’s recent calls for an increase in abductions in order to facilitate prisoner swaps to free al-Qaeda captives captured by the United States and coalition partners. On Sunday, about 20 gunmen stormed a Baghdad meat processing plant and abducted 26 prisoners. Today, 14 were taken captive from computer stores near Baghdad’s Technology University as reportedly seven vehicles swept through as the terrorists grabbed their victims.

The abductions Sunday and Monday are the continuation of a threat that boiled to the surface Friday as, for the second time in seven months, al-Qaeda has attempted to hoist its black banner of jihad within Baghdad’s Green Zone by infiltrating security forces. The whole of Baghdad was in a state of lockdown Saturday on intelligence that a multiple car bomb attack on the Iraqi parliament and civilians was immanent. While the lockdown was expected to remain in place until 6:00am local time Sunday morning, the Iraqi parliament has since extended martial law for the entire month through November 1. A bodyguard - suspected to be a member of al-Qaeda in Iraq - of top Sunni Iraqi parliament member Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the National Concord Front, was arrested on Friday.

Dulaimi’s arrested bodyguard, Khudhir Farhan, is thought to have been leading seven other al-Qaeda terrorists in a coordinated car bomb attack which may also have also involved suicide vests. Farhan would have had direct access to the Iraqi parliament building. Answering initial questions to reporters, Dulaimi said that Farhan had been signed on to his team one month prior, and added, “[T]herefore I haven’t got complete data about his background.”

Though while the US military stressed at the time that the Friday raid “in no way implies Dr al-Dulaimi was associated with any illegal activity,” Iraqi Shi’a politicians were not so quick to dismiss potential ties between the top Sunni political leader and the insurgency, demanding changes within the government.

During the citywide lockdown over the weekend, searches were conducted in attempts to find the other cell members and their bombs before an attack can be carried out. While in this instance it appears an infiltration by al-Qaeda in Iraq at the parliamentarians’ staff level, in March 2006 over 400 suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists and insurgents were “one bureaucrat’s signature away from acceptance into an Iraqi army battalion” which was directly responsible for perimeter security around the Green Zone in Baghdad.

While the level of success of the searches is unknown, there has been no string of car bombings as yet in Baghdad. But the kidnappings demonstrate the presence of cells that are carrying out parallel operational direction. The abductions Sunday and Monday are in line with al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri’s recorded statement last week calling for the abduction of high value targets in order to secure the release of ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdel Rahman from an American prison, among other al-Qaeda prisoners. This is notably in line with Ayman al-Zawahiri’s message from al-Qaeda proper - also delivered last week - in which he declared after repeated references to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and others, “Be aware that the liberation of our captives is a debt on our shoulders, which we must fulfill, with God’s help and power.