Ex-hostage: Militants wanted Bush re-elected

French journalists say captors thought Bush boosted their cause

The Associated Press

December 25, 2004

PARIS - French journalists held hostage for four months in Iraq said their militant captors told them they wanted President Bush to win re-election.

In a four-page account of their ordeal, one of the reporters, Georges Malbrunot, also wrote that they saw several other hostages who were later decapitated. The journalists said their captors viewed foreign businessmen working in Iraq as their enemies.

One of the captors from the group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq said Bush’s re-election would boost their cause, Malbrunot wrote in Friday’s edition of Le Figaro, the French daily he works for.

“We want Bush because with him the American troops will stay in Iraq and that way we will be able to develop,” Malbrunot cited the captor as saying.

Bush beat Democrat John Kerry to win the presidency last month.

Another captor, who described himself as the group’s head of internal intelligence, told the men that the Islamic Army has four enemies: American and coalition troops, “their collaborators, that is to say Italian businessmen, or even French,” as well Iraqi police and spies.

Malbrunot wrote that the Islamic Army has 15,000 to 17,000 members and that its hostage-takings are carefully organized.

“There are those who stop people on the roads, those that carry out interrogations, those that keep guard and those that judge,” he wrote.

He and fellow French reporter Christian Chesnot feared at times that they would be killed, he said.

Others hostages they saw who were later decapitated included two Macedonians, an Iraqi power station executive and a bodyguard for Ahmad Chalabi, a candidate in next month’s Iraqi elections and a one-time Pentagon favorite, he recounted.

Malbrunot, 41, and Chesnot, 38, were released Tuesday.

In a separate interview on RTL radio, Malbrunot said it would take time to recover from their ordeal. “Sleeping, for example, is hard,” he said.

“But the life of a free man is far easier than that of a hostage,” he added.