By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Officials in Baghdad agree crime is on the rise there, though they differ on the causes and offer little in the way of hard statistics to back up their claims.
Baghdad’s criminal court announced Jan. 17 that many areas in the capital have witnessed a significant increase in cases of kidnapping, theft, pickpocketing and robberies recently, stressing that organized gangs are behind some of these crimes. Examining Magistrate Alaa Abdullah said, “Palestine Street, in the center of Baghdad, came first in terms of registered crimes at the court during the current year, with more than 31 reported cases.”
Officials fear that kidnappings in particular are affecting investments in Iraq. The kidnappings have become a threat to businesses, their employees and their investors. This could lead businesses to move to other Iraqi cities that are seen as safer, or to leave or avoid the country altogether.
In one recent case, Haidar Hassoun, general manager of the Iraqi Media Foundation, was the victim of an attempted kidnapping Jan. 2 in northern Baghdad.
On Dec. 16, Ali Sajjad al-Khafaji, 14, was on his way home from school in the upscale Karrada area in central Baghdad when four people in a four-wheel-drive vehicle snatched him from the street. Although the family of the kidnapped youth paid a ransom of $41,000 to the kidnappers, their son’s body was found Dec. 23 dumped in the Tigris River. He had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death.
Some gangs hire a person called “Al-Allas,” which means a bounty hunter. This person’s mission is to provide the names and details of wealthy individuals or families to gang members. Gangs ask for ransoms, but often end up killing the victims anyway.