Captives: Terrorists hoped for Bush re-election

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

(Jerusalem Post - The Associated Press)

Two French journalists who were held hostage in Iraq told a British documentary program that their captors believed George W. Bush's re-election as US president would help radicalize Iraqis.

Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who were seized in August and released after four months, told the British Broadcasting Corp.'s "Panorama" program that they were allowed to interview the leader of an Islamic militant cell within the group that seized them.

"We felt we were on planet bin Laden," Malbrunot said on the program, which airs Wednesday night.

The cell leader trained with terror leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and told them the insurgents supported a Bush presidency because they believed it meant that "there will be confrontation, occupation and radicalization of the Iraqi people," Malbrunot said.

"Panorama" interviewed seven surviving hostages, including two Iraqi hostages who witnessed a beheading and the families of three hostages who were killed.

Insurgents in Iraq have seized more than 270 foreign hostages from 37 countries.

Thomas Hamill, the only US hostage to escape from captivity, said when his captors learned of abuses by US soldiers at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison "they were just looking for an excuse to kill me."

He later escaped, but US helicopters failed to spot him, and Hamill locked himself back into the shack that was his prison. A few days later he managed to escape again and was picked up by a passing US military patrol.

Also in the program, the brother of beheaded British hostage Ken Bigley told how the Bigley family received two private videos from his captors via an intermediary in Baghdad.

Phil Bigley said the first of these was very different from the videos released for public consumption, which showed Bigley in an orange jumpsuit, pleading for his life.

"He was dressed in normal clothing, he was clean shaven, he was a lot more relaxed in possibly an area sitting near a dining table, or certainly completely different circumstances than the previous terror videos ... to open a potential dialogue," Bigley said.


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