Paul Buchanan, a former CIA consultant and professor at Auckland University in New Zealand, said it's possible the four men, including two Canadians, are being held by a criminal group, which is looking for ransom in return for their safe release.
Mr. Buchanan said at least eight foreign aid workers in the war-torn nation have been kidnapped in the past for ransom and then released once the money was paid.
“In these cases, after an initial flurry of publicity, things went silent while negotiations over the ransom amount were ongoing,” he told globeandmail.com in an e-mail interview from New Zealand.
“Be they governments or NGOS [non-governmental organizations], the patrons of the hostages eventually settle with the kidnappers, and the hostages are quietly released and their freedom announced later.”
“Thus the three week silence in this instance, if indeed the aid workers are being held by a criminal group, is a positive sign. Needless to say, all involved would be mum on the issue.”
Toronto-resident James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a former Montrealer who had been studying in New Zealand, were taken hostage at gunpoint in Baghdad on Nov. 26 along with American Tom Fox, 54, and Briton Norman Kember, 74.
All four are affiliated with the Christian Peacemakers Teams and had been in Iraq to work alongside residents of that country to voice their opposition to the war.
A group calling itself the Swords of Righteous Brigade has said it was behind the kidnappings and accused the men of spying. The group had said it would kill the men unless all Iraqi detainees were released by the United States by Dec. 10.
Since that deadline, there has been no word on the fate for the four men. Little is known about the hostage takers. Religious groups from around the world have called for the release of the captives, citing peaceful nature of their work.
Mr. Buchanan also said it's likely both western and Iraqi security forces will be working trying to locate the place where the aid workers are being held, meaning the kidnappers would have to constantly be on the move and exposed.
“Time is not necessarily on the kidnappers side since money talks loudly in that part of the world, and the more they have to move about to hold the hostages, the more vulnerable to detection they are,” he said.
“Had they killed the hostages, the bodies would most likely have been found by now.”
Another possibility is that a criminal group has exchanged the hostages with a political group for a fee. That alternative, he said, “would be dire and has been threatened in the past when terms were not met.”
“That would be a bad scenario, but is leverage that the kidnappers can use on the hostage patrons,” he said.
He also noted that, if the men were kidnapped by an politically or ideologically motivated group, the scenario, the prospects would also be grim because the objective for such groups is usually to remove all Western presence from Iraq, regardless of where they are from or why they are in the country.
“But if this were the case here, we would have heard or seen about the executions,” he said.
Now, I don't know. For the Canadians I wonder if it is a good sign since Canada does not have any army or presense in Iraq. They only have humanitarians in helping ordinary Iraqis. The Birtish peace worker and the American peace worker I am not too sure. Hopefully, like other hostages released over the past few weeks they will all be released.