- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2006

BAGHDAD — The families of hundreds of Shi’ite men snatched off the streets by Sunni extremists are waiting to hear their fate after kidnappers threatened to kill them if the execution of Saddam Hussein went ahead.

As many as 450 men are thought to have been seized by Sunni militants during the past two months as hostages against the execution.

Iraqi security forces said the families of the men, most of whom worked for Shi’ite political parties, had been told they would be killed if Saddam was executed.

Col. Mahdi al Salamy, from the Interior Ministry, said hundreds of people had been reported missing over the past two months.

“We have many situations of Shi’ite people being disappeared and their bodies never being found,” he said.

He said between 400 and 450 Shi’ite men were thought to have been kidnapped.

“We received many messages from families telling us that their sons were being held as hostages, waiting for Saddam to be executed,” he said.

Most of the men were taken in the area around Latifiyah city, a Sunni stronghold 25 miles south of Baghdad. The Interior Ministry said the men were seized as they drove between the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf and Baghdad.

Gunmen set up fake checkpoints and ordered the men from their cars, seizing four or five hostages at a time. About 80 men were also taken from Taji city when gunmen stopped three buses and ordered off the men inside.

The seizures went on for two months before Iraqi army units moved into the area and shut down the checkpoints.

Talking hours before Saddam’s execution, relatives of the hostages said they were resigned to their fate.

Haider al Hachami said his brother, Kadri al Hachami, had been snatched a month ago as he drove from work in the Al Rashdia area of Baghdad to his home in the Shi’ite district of Al Shualaa.

He did not hold out any hope because his brother worked for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the main Shi’ite party in Iraq.

“One day after his kidnapping a gang rang and told me, ‘Your brother was working with the SCIRI party and he is now held as a hostage with us and all of them will be executed if Saddam is killed,’ ” he said. “Anyway, he will be killed. If that is so, I prefer to kill Saddam Hussein because I have lost my brother. He is dead, because he is working for the SCIRI party.”

Officials said the men were thought to have been taken by a group known as the 20th Revolution Brigade, the military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement, which has previously been linked to the kidnapping of foreign workers in Iraq.

Haider al Hachami said his brother was 32 and married with three children.

“He did not come back home and after one day these people called and told us those things and no one called after that,” he said. “They did not ask for anything, only for no execution of Saddam Hussein. And they told me to tell the SCIRI party that they would do this, with hundreds of other people.”

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