Kidnapping has become a big business in Iraq in the last year. Most of the victims are Iraqis, but in the last two months, about 40 foreigners have been taken. About half of them are still captives. The coalition forbids the payment of ransom, but it is feared that some companies, families or foreign governments have quietly paid the kidnappers in order to get people released. When taking Iraqis, the ransoms are relatively small (often less than a thousand dollars.) But the payoff for a foreigner could be much larger. Meanwhile, the kidnappers often sell their captives to larger kidnapping gangs. This is happening a lot with the foreign captives, who require more complex negotiations (with foreigners) to obtain a large ransom. However, al Qaeda is also in the market for foreign captives. The kidnappers, however, are not keen on dealing with al Qaeda. As yesterday's raid demonstrated, the coalition commandos can track down and free captives. And once the coalition gets on your tail, you have a major problem that interferes with a criminals money making activities. And the coalition sees al Qaeda as a major target, along with anyone dealing with al Qaeda.
The kidnapping gangs are one of the major crime problems in Iraq. The kidnappers are most active in Iraq and other large cities like Basra. The Iraqi police have begun to make some progress in shutting the gangs down. But at the moment, the gangs can use money to pay off local tribal leaders to provide relatively safe hideouts for the gang, and their captives. The gangs are all now a little uneasy, because it's obvious that the much feared coalition commandoes are now involved in hunting down the gangs and their hideouts.