Peter Moore: IT consultant and Iraq hostage – Part One
Stripped, pistol whipped, cold conked, bored stiff
Resistance is futile
Reg I understand a British colleague escaped capture in the raid?
PM To be honest with you, I don't know exactly what happened because we were working in separate rooms. I was told later that his colleagues hid him in the false floor underneath the computer room until the police had gone.
He was in an office next door with two Iraqis and he had a beard like the locals. I suspect the militia just looked into the room and didn't realize that he wasn't a local. The guy who took me hostage said he had looked in the other room and didn't see anyone, so that may be it.
Reg What happened after you left the Ministry of Finance?
PM We were bundled into the back of a police vehicle, and still thought we were just under arrest at that point. But when they started to strip off our clothes and throw them out of the van's windows, I realized we were being abducted.
I remember just driving through a couple of military checkpoints with the sirens going, and then the convoy split up. We pulled up in a marketplace in Sadr City, I got out with the British guards, and we stood there in this marketplace in our underpants. We were then bundled into the back of this minibus with a couple of police officers, blindfolded, and driven around for a bit, stopping off in various houses.
Myself and two of my guards were then put into a false compartment in a Bedford truck behind the drivers cab and kept in there for two days as we were driven down to Basra, 300 miles down south from Baghdad.
Reg And you were kept there with the others?
PM They moved us around a lot at first to reduce the chances of the coalition forces getting a lock on us. I found out that was the main reason the coalition couldn't get to us during the initial abduction period. Signals are key to finding you quickly.
We were taken out and I was moved into a house with two of the guards for around ten days. Then, for whatever reason, I was moved to another house where the other two British guards were being held. Then I was moved back to be with the other two guards, then one of them disappeared and I never saw him again.
I stayed with the other guard until the end of December and then was moved and spent time with two American hostages. Their identity has never been released to the press but I can tell you who they were now. One was and American guard contractor called Michael Chand, who was kidnapped on August 17, 2007 according to leaked diplomatic cables.
The other was a very interesting guy, Staff Sgt. Ahmed al-Taie. He was an Iraqi-born American who had gone out there as a translator. al-Taie was the last American soldier to be missing in action and his body was only released earlier this year.
Reg Why keep the body so long?
PM It's a tactic that group uses. We were held by Shi'ite militia, who were following on from Hezbollah. Now Hezbollah participate in regular body exchanges with the Israelis. So the Shi'ites followed that practice.
If I'd been taken by Al Qaeda then I would have got out a lot earlier. The Shi'ite wanted me to exchange for their own people who had been arrested, where as Al Qaeda want money and will cash in hostages to get it.
Reg So what kind of conditions were you kept in?
PM I was chained to a wall with less than a meter of movement for the first year, although I got passed around different groups of guards so conditions weren't uniform.
For the first six months I could sit and lie down and that was it, but the second six months I was permanently blindfolded, handcuffed, and chained, so I could only lie down on my back – it's all they would let me do. They only let me take the blindfold off to eat and to go to the toilet.
In the second year I just had both of my feet chained to a grille and I had about a meter of movement, but these guards were easier. I had a TV and was allowed to sit on a chair, so I could alternate between sitting on the floor and on the chair, which made it much easier to deal with.
Reg Where you physically abused?
PM The first six months were the worst; they were really quite harsh – unnecessarily harsh. I got broken ribs, I got a crack in my head and glass in my leg.
One time a guard came in and just smacked me over the head with an AK-47 butt. I knew something was wrong, everything just went black and white and I could feel liquid running down the outside of my head where they cracked open my skull. It was rough.
I think they were just doing it to enforce control initially, but some of the guards had had relatives that were captured by the British or Americans so they were a little bit unhappy. That said, some of them were just downright nasty.
Reg The mock executions you mentioned. This was part of it?
PM The first time it happened it basically terrified me. I was sat with one of the British guards blindfolded and a police sergeant from the Ministry of Transport in Basra came in. He handcuffed my hands behind my back, blindfolded me, and led me outside.
I wasn't really sure what was going on. He knelt me down and put a gun to my head, cocked it and then pulled the trigger. While he did it someone else fired a gun. I heard a bang behind me and just thought "I'm dead." The brain just goes, "You're dead." Then came the reality check, I'm still breathing, still sweating, and I can hear the guards laughing.
Then it kicked in: I wasn't dead. I know you're supposed to show the stiff upper lip and show no fear, but I just started shaking and sweating. I was so annoyed with myself for that. Then they let me back into the room and the British guy asked what had happened. I said they'd just shot me in the head and he said no they haven't. It was very disturbing.
Reg It was reported that you actually did tech support for the militia when you were incarcerated.
PM Yes, in December 2007 a guard came in with a laptop he said belonged to his boss and said it wasn't working very well and could I take a look at it.
Honestly, I really couldn't be bothered, so I took a cursory look at it and said there was nothing I could do. He came back 10 minutes later and asked again, saying it was for his boss and he really wanted it sorted out. Eventually I agreed to take a look at it.
It was running really, really slowly. I checked around and saw it had loads of spyware and adware running on it, so I deleted what I could, defragged the hard drive, ran Regedit to see what else was blocking it up, and removed all of the temporary files. When I'd finished it was running a lot faster and the guy took it away.
A few minutes later the guy comes back into the room, smacks me on the top of the head with a gun and tells me next time he's got a computer problem I better fix it straight away.