Guardian reveals Peter Moore, who has been released after two years, was targeted because of his role in tracking international aid money that was being diverted to Iran-backed militias.
The five British men kidnapped in Iraq were taken in an operation led and masterminded by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, according to evidence uncovered during an extensive investigation by the Guardian.
The men – including Peter Moore, who was released yesterday after more than two years in captivity – were taken to Iran within a day of their kidnapping from a government ministry building in Baghdad in 2007, several senior sources in Iraq and Iran have told the Guardian.
They were held in prisons run by al-Quds Force, a Revolutionary Guard unit that specialises in foreign operations on behalf of the Iranian government.
The United States' former commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, told the BBC he was "90% certain" Moore was held in Iran for some of his two and a half years in captivity.
One of the kidnappers has told the Guardian that three of the Britons – Jason Creswell, Jason Swindlehurst and Alec Maclachlan – were killed after the British government refused to take ransom demands seriously.
The Guardian can also reveal after a year-long investigation that:
• Moore was targeted because he was installing a system that would show how a vast amount of international aid was diverted to Iran's militia groups in Iraq.
• The bodyguards' bodies were eventually traded for the release of Iraqi prisoners.
• They had probably been dead for at least 18 months before three of their bodies were handed over this year.
A former Iranian Revolutionary Guard member, speaking to the Guardian under condition of anonymity, said the extraordinary kidnapping was masterminded by Iran. The man – a former major who worked for 14 years inside the Iranian organisation and claims to have taken part in kidnap operations himself – said he believed the hostages were held in two al-Quds camps in Iran: one known as Qasser Shiereen military camp, close to the Iraqi border crossing with Mehran, and a second camp known as the Tehran Pars, located near a salt lake north-east of Qom.
"It was an Iranian kidnap, led by the Revolutionary Guard, carried out by the al-Quds Force," he said. "My contact works for al-Quds. He took part in the planning of the kidnap and he watched the kidnapping as it was taking place. He told me that they spent two days at the Qasser Shiereen camp. They then took them deep inside Iran."
This claim is backed up by a serving Iraqi minister with close links to Iran. "This was an IRG [Iranian Revolutionary Guard] operation," he said. "You don't think for a moment that those militia groups from Sadr City could have carried out a high-level kidnapping like this one."
A former intelligence chief at the Iraqi ministry of defence has described to the Guardian how intelligence operatives followed the kidnappers as they took the hostages from a mosque in Baghdad's Sadr City to the Iranian border. "They were hooded and handcuffed, then the cars drove off in a new direction – they were headed towards the Iranian border," he said.
While the hostages were in Iran the kidnappers made sure those who took care of them were Iraqi nationals. "At all times they were surrounded by Iraqi voices. Everything was done to make sure they had no idea they were in Iran," said an Iranian source with knowledge of the kidnapping.
The other Britons captured with Moore were all security guards. The bodies of Swindlehurst and Creswell were identified in June, followed by Maclachlan in September. McMenemy is believed dead, although his body has not been returned. It is not clear where the men were killed. Their bodies were buried inside Iraq and information about their locations was traded for prisoner releases.
A Guardian report in July revealed evidence that Iraqi officials colluded in the kidnapping of the five, and that one motive was to prevent millions of dollars of aid money from being tracked – including an estimated $18bn (£11bn) that had gone missing.
A former senior Iraqi intelligence chief claims the project Moore was working on would have laid bare exactly where all Iraq's money was going. He claims there was an Iranian link to the alleged financial cover-up.
I do wonder if the Grauniad knows all this why they didn't hand the information over so that the men could be rescued, or if it was too late, at least their poor families could be told the truth and put out of their mental torment earlier.
Perhaps they did. I am sure the Foreign Office had their own agenda.
"Iran's Revolutionary Guards - A Rogue Outfit?"
(By M. Rubin, 'MEQ,' Fall, 2008)