Kidnapping a Growing Obstacle to Securing Iraq

American journalist Jill Carroll: Whereabouts unknown.

American engineers Jack Hensley and Jack Armstrong and British engineer Kenneth Bigley: Killed by their captors.

Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena: Lucky enough to be rescued.

At least 250 foreigners have been kidnapped in postwar Iraq, with at least 39 of them killed.

American journalist Micah Garen was held for ten days and released in August 2004.

Seized in Nassriyah, his captors originally demanded money but then decided he was worth more as a political pawn. Garen described it as a grueling, horrible experience.

"In those moments, you're thinking just seconds ahead, seconds ahead trying to do anything you can to stay alive," he said.

Desperate, Garen tried to talk to his captors. He realized the limits of those attempts five days into his captivity when he was blindfolded bound and brought into a room with a video camera.

"I had just seen these videotaped executions," he said, "so in my mind I was preparing for the possibility that I could be killed at the end of the tape."

Thinking he was going to die, Garen wanted to make sure his fiancée Marie-Helene knew he was thinking about her: "I found a packet of cigarettes, an old packet that had been left in this enclosure, and I tore off the front and I scratched out in dirt on it 'MH' for Marie-Helene and 'Zug,' for our dog Zugma, and then 'love.' And I took that message and I put it in my shirt pocket and I kept it with me the entire time of my captivity because I knew in that moment, the worst possible thing if I were to die is for the family not to know what had happened or how you felt in those last moments."

For friends and relatives of victims, it is heartbreaking. They are often left with little information and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.

On Tuesday, the Arab TV network al Jazeera broadcast video of three of four members of the Christian Peacemakers Teams, who were kidnapped in November. Other members of the organization, of course, noticed the fourth was missing from the video.

"Well, it's a little bit of a mix of hope and distress. Hope because we still see three of our friends obviously alive and also a bit of distress because the other friend, Tom Fox from the United States, is not shown," said Allan Slater, a Canadian member of the Christian Peacemakers in Baghdad.

Did that mean Fox had been killed? Did it mean nothing? For Fox's loved ones, the lack of information is a form of psychological torture itself.

"The first impulse is 'I need to get my loved one back,'" said former FBI official Jack Cloonan, who runs a firm that negotiates for the release of hostages all over the world, including Iraq. Cloonan is also an ABC News consultant. He says that desperation can complicate getting a victim's freedom. Giving into demands too quickly can make the price increase exponentially.

"You have to have the wherewithal to deal with this as a business transaction, which as you might imagine, is very difficult," he said.

A recent study by the Brookings Institution reports that up to 30 people a day are kidnapped in Iraq.

"Most of the kidnappings are of Iraqi citizens," Slater said.

Last April, after the bodies of 50 kidnapping victims were found in the Tigris River, a story with the headline "Iraq's Rising Industry: Domestic Kidnapping" appeared in The Christian Science Monitor. The story was written by Carroll.

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