Iraqi special anti-terrorism forces continue search operations in different areas of the southern Dhi Qar governorate to find the civilian activist who was kidnapped by gunmen on Saturday.
On Tuesday, video footage showed dozens of military vehicles wandering around in the streets of the southern city of Nasiriyah and other cities.
However, five days after the incident, forces of the Iraqi counter-terrorism service (ICTS) have yet failed to arrest those involved in the abduction of Sajjad al-Iraqi.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered Monday dispatching ICTS forces backed by the army's air force to search for al-Iraqi.
Kadhimi’s orders came after the security forces and local police in Nasiriyah failed to free the activist three days after he was kidnapped.
The Security Media Cell announced Tuesday the launch of the search for the kidnapped activist.
“Units from the ICTS, a regiment from Dhi Qar police and a regiment from the Sumer Operations Commando Brigade started a joint duty to search for al-Iraqi and arrest the kidnappers,” it announced in a statement.
Several observers raised questions over the delay in launching the operation to free the activist, although Dhi Qar Police Chief Hazem al-Waeli said on Monday that security forces were able to identify the kidnappers through the testimonies of eyewitnesses and al-Iraqi’s friends who were accompanying him when he got kidnapped.
For his part, Waeli pointed out that the police also used information retrieved from the tire tracks left behind by the abductor’s vehicle. He affirmed that security forces started taking necessary measures regarding the case.
Government security sources did not reveal yet the reasons preventing the release of al-Iraqi’s and the arrest of those involved.
However, a security source told Asharq Al-Awsat that those involved in the kidnap belong to a tribe that has wide influence among armed factions and is allied with Hadi al-Amiri’s Badr Organization.
For this reason, he stressed, forces are not rushing into its areas of influence to avoid unnecessary armed confrontations.
Many tribal members have been prosecuted on kidnapping and robbery charges, the source noted, adding that, most probably, they would open fire on security forces.
He also expected the activist to be released soon through a tribal settlement and without clashes.
Activists in Nasiriyah have earlier accused al-Ibrahimi tribe of being behind the abduction, driven mainly by political aims, but police sources said the motives behind the kidnapping remain unclear.
Iraqi was kidnapped by seven gunmen mounting a pick-up truck on Saturday evening from the al-Azirij neighborhood north of Nasiriyah.
One of his companions was shot, but he survived his wounds and identified the kidnappers.