The New York Times reports:
An Iraqi militant group said it had abducted an American contractor, a day after the United States military reported that a contractor had been missing since Jan. 23. It would be the first reported kidnapping of an American in a year in Iraq.
The militant group posted a video to back up its claim, although the man in the video does not give his name.
The Department of Defense identified the missing man as Issa T. Salomi, 60, of El Cajon, Calif. In a statement on Friday, the military said he worked as a contractor for American forces and was last seen on Jan. 23 in Baghdad. Search efforts were under way, the statement said.
There was no way to immediately confirm the authenticity of the video or that the man pictured was Mr. Salomi.
The reports of an abduction raise fresh fears that despite an improvement in security in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, foreigners working here are still vulnerable to kidnapping.
In the video, the captured man, wearing what appeared to be an American military uniform, identified the abductors as the League of Righteous, a Shiite Muslim militant group, and said they were treating him “kindly.” He said his kidnappers were demanding the release of other militants from jail and the prosecution of former Blackwater security guards accused in a shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead in 2007.
“The second demand is to bring the proper justice and the proper punishment to those members of Blackwater company that have committed unjustifiable crimes against innocent Iraqi civilians,” the man said in a transcript of the video posted on a Web site used by Iraqi insurgent groups. The man in the video said his captors were demanding “proper compensation to the families that have been involved in great suffering because of this incident.”
If the Obama administration has any interest in really dealing with the Blackwater legacy in a significant way, it’s time that it develops a case for the criminal prosecution of Erik Prince. Otherwise, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, groups like the League of Righteous will continue to have all the political ammunition they need to justify kidnapping Americans.
But the chances are, Prince still doesn’t need to fear arrest. Instead, most likely, another secret deal will be cut resulting in another prisoner exchange.