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The Western media has focused its attention on the Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI), which has claimed responsibility for the hostage of two French journalists.
Barely two weeks ago, the same group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and execution of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni. And in July, the IAI took hostage and executed two Pakistanis, a driver and a maintenance worker who were working in Iraq for a Kuwait company. Also in July, a group, calling itself "Khalid Bin-al-Walid Brigade" linked to the IAI, threatened to kill a Filipino hostage if the Manila government did not pull out its troops from Iraq in 72 hours. (BBC, 8 July 2004).
On 28 August, The Al-Jazeera TV network broadcast a video of the two journalists and an audio of the IAI ultimatum. The various IAI videos released by Al Jazeera exhibit the same insignia: a map of Iraq, with a kalachnikov and the name of the IAI written in red.
France has no troops in Iraq. The IAI has demanded that France renege on its ban of the Muslim headscarf in French public schools, which is to take effect on September 2nd. This demand, however, is totally unrelated to the Iraqi context and the IAI previous demands, which have consistently focused on troops withdrawals.
In this case, the kidnapping of the two journalists has galvanized French public opinion (indirectly) in support the US led "war on terrorism." It has also served to discredit the Iraqi resistance movement while upholding the shaky legitimacy of the US sponsored "provisional government".
In other words, it has contributed to weakening the legitimacy of France's anti-war stance to the benefit of Washington.
No doubt, it will also contribute to increased ethnic hatred directed against France's Muslim minority, which represents 8.5 percent of France's population.
The IAI has no history, no links. It is said to be composed of Iraqi Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalists. According to Al Jazeera in relation to the kidnapping of the Pakistanis (26 July 2004, quoted by BBC Monitoring ,31 July 2004):
"[The] Iraqi group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq has said that it abducted three persons, two Pakistanis and one Iraqi, working for a Kuwaiti company... The statement says that investigations were carried out with the Pakistanis, and that death sentences were issued against them." The statement "warned the Kuwaiti Al-Tamimi Company that the fate of its employees will be like that of the two Pakistanis unless it halts its activities in Iraq. "
In a subsequent report on the same kidnapping, Al-Jazeera reported on 28 July that
"the Islamic Army has announced that it executed two Pakistani hostages whom it kidnapped". The channel said the group "distributed a videotape in which it showed the bodies of the two hostages after killing them" but that Al-Jazeera "chose not to show the pictures of the bodies of the two dead people out of consideration for the feelings of the viewers".
On 26 July Al-Arabiya "reported that an armed group holding seven foreign hostages in Iraq had extended its deadline. The channel showed a masked man reading a statement saying that:
"the supreme command of the Clandestine Islamic Army decided the following: First, extending the deadline to complete negotiations with the competent parties; second, stressing the termination of the Kuwaiti company's dealings with the occupier; third, warning the Indian Government against the irresponsible onslaught on mujahidin in protection of its nationals. May God grant us guidance."
Below, we present to our readers the provocative viewpoint of Algerian journalist Tayeb Belghiche on the French Hostage Crisis and its implications.
Michel Chossudovsky, Editor, 31 August 2004
El Watan web site, Algiers,
original in French, 30 Aug 2004
Commentary by Tayeb Belghiche
Ignoble blackmail is being applied to the French government. A sordid " Islamic Army in Iraq " kidnapped two French journalists - Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot - and, for their release, is demanding that France abolishes the law on the wearing of the Islamic veil. It is known that Islamist terrorism is transnational, that it is waging a war to the bitter end on all of humanity, and that it is sowing horror wherever it sets up, but the demand from this group of criminals exceeds all comprehension.
One could have imagined everything except Iraqis going after France. No one can forget that that country made itself Iraq's unconditional advocate on every international agency. It triggered an unprecedented diplomatic war with the US to prevent it from invading and occupying the territory. To do that, in its wake it dragged powers such as Germany, Russia and China. To avenge themselves, the Americans began to boycott French products, with the economic consequences that this supposes. But France did not yield. Today she is being punished by Iraqis. That is the height of ingratitude. The big loser in this matter is Iraq. This discredits the Iraqi resistance in particular.
Starting there, one must wonder about this so-called Islamic Army in Iraq.
Who is it working for?
Its crimes vastly play into the hands of the US and Israel, which have a significant ally in them. Isn't it helping to cast even more discredit on Islam and the Muslim world? If the two journalists are assassinated, Arabs will be poorly viewed in metropolitan France. It is easy to guess who will benefit from that.
The special services can easily establish some small groups that they will manipulate as they see fit with the goal of weakening or marginalizing their adversary. No one will be surprised one day if we learn that this self-styled army is in fact a hodgepodge of individuals who acted on behalf of the CIA or the Mossad. The American agency should be delighted with the difficulties that the French government is coming up against today. From all the evidence, the invasion of Iraq by the United States has not stopped producing its horrors. George W. Bush bears the great responsibility for this before history.
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