Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Travellers use codes to stay safe

IRAQ: Travellers use codes to stay safe


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© IRIN

People making travel arrangements in Iraq have taken to using coded language to avoid being killed by insurgents.

BAGHDAD, 29 Nov 2006 (IRIN) - Businessman Abdallah Kammal, 52, arrived safely to his Baghdad home after a working trip abroad, but only after following strict security precautions.

While he was in the Jordanian capital, Amman, Kammal telephoned his driver giving him the date and time of his arrival at Baghdad’s international airport. The details, however, were passed in code to guarantee his safety.

“Pick me up at 10am at the airport on Sunday and drive me to my cousin’s house at Kadhmiyah district please,” Kammal had told him.

In reality, Kammal was asking to be picked up on Monday at 2pm and to be driven to his parents’ home at Dora district some 8km from Kadhmiyah.

“That is what I do to stay safe from kidnappers and insurgents who often know when you are going to arrive. Using codes is the best way to avoid being targeted,” he said.

Kammal said he started using codes after his brother, also a businessman, and his business partner were killed on the same road after arriving from Syria.

We should be really careful. Insurgents usually prepare rockets and grenades around the road waiting for US convoys to pass through so they can attack them. If we are not lucky enough to be far away from their targets, we too could end up victims of the attack.

An Iraqi driver

“He telephoned his driver and we do not know how the insurgents knew but on his way back he was kidnapped and his decapitated body was found after three days on the outskirts of the capital,” he said.

Kammal changes the codes he uses every month to keep one step ahead of kidnappers or insurgents.

“Weeks before they discover what we do to protect ourselves, we would already have started using new tactics,” he said.

The method used by the businessman is also used by local and foreign journalists, government employees and NGO workers.

“Rather than giving the right dates by phone, some of them send us emails with their arrival details but, of course, also in code so that even if the driver is seized and forced to open his emails, they [kidnappers or insurgents] will not get the correct information,” said Kammal’s driver, who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons.

People travelling to and from Baghdad’s airport are often the most vulnerable, the driver said. This is because they may be perceived to be working for US-led coalition forces, he said. Hundreds of employees working at the airport and the adjacent US base, as well as travellers, use this road daily. The road to the airport is the most dangerous in the capital. At least one violent incident happens on the road every day.

“We should be really careful. Insurgents usually prepare rockets and grenades around the road waiting for US convoys to pass through so they can attack them. If we are not lucky enough to be far away from their targets, we too could end up victims of the attack,” said the driver.

Hundreds of Iraqis have been kidnapped over the past 10 months, especially in Baghdad, according to the local Iraqi police. Many of them have been tortured and than killed as a result of the sectarian violence in Iraq. Others have been held for ransom and many were killed even after ransom was paid, the local police added.

“If the government is unable to protect us, we are doing it ourselves. Nothing has changed in the past months to make Iraq a safer place. The situation is just getting worse,” Kammal said.

as/ar/ed

[ENDS]

Ali

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