1520: Gaspar Quesada, Magellan’s expedition mutineer 1747: Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat

2007: Ajmal Naqshbandi, Fixer

April 8th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 2007, the Taliban beheaded hostage Ajmal Naqshbandi, an Afghan “fixer” who arranged local contacts for foreign journalists.

Naqshbandi had been pinched on March 6 with La Repubblica writer Daniele Mastrogiacomo while both were out on a story together, even though Naqshbandi himself had set up Taliban interviews before.*

Quiet negotiations over several weeks produced a swap that would free the scribes, but a last-minute breach by the authorities — who decided not to return one of the agreed-upon prisoners — caused the Taliban to hang onto the Fixer. (Mastrogiacomo was set free. The man who was driving these two had been beheaded at the outset to prove the captors meant business.)

The story wasn’t quiet any longer, and as it mushroomed into a worldwide cause celebre with a scramble to save Ajmal, the Taliban evidently perceived a political advantage in butchering its hostage.

Success! Afghan President Hamid Karzai looked like a total stooge, willing to ransom a foreigner but not an Afghan.

So, for that matter, did the Italian government, which got it from both sides for being abject enough to deal with terrorists in the first place, and then ignoble enough once it did so to bail out its own national while letting his local partner die.

Naqshbandi is the subject of the (aptly titled) documentary Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (review).

Fellow-hostage Daniele Mastrogiacomo wrote this book about the ordeal.

The film follows Ajmal’s work with journalist Christian Parenti.

Doug Henwood of Left Business Observer interviewed Christian Parenti in the second half of this August 2009 episode from his (highly recommended, though rarely death penalty-related) WBAI radio program/podcast Behind the News, with intriguing coverage of the political context and the role of Pakistani intelligence:


(Another leftist outlet, Democracy Now!, interviewed Parenti here.)

Pretty brutal.

But then, war is hell for journalists.

* “This work is very dangerous,” Naqshbandi said a few months before his death. “I bring one enemy to meet another.”

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Afghanistan,Arts and Literature,Beheaded,Borderline "Executions",Cycle of Violence,Execution,History,Hostages,Innocent Bystanders,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Political Expedience,Power,Ripped from the Headlines,Scandal,Wartime Executions

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4 thoughts on “2007: Ajmal Naqshbandi, Fixer”

  1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Robert — I don’t care for the ACLU. I’m also conservative, I carry a weapon every day, and I know murder when I see it.

  2. Robert L Martin says:

    It’s war, get over it. The players there do not look like soldiers. There are no definitive battle lines. My guess is you are a charter member of the ACLU. Kind of like our soldiers help them in the daytime, and the same people they help attack our soldiers at night.

  3. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Why would the US Army fire upon men hauling bodies away from a scene of carnage? They had no weapons. No one was moving in an aggressive manner. They couldn’t determine the occupants of the van. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in that video speaks of any type of threat against US forces once that van comes into view. Why didn’t any of those exceedingly poorly trained cowboys who were masquerading as soldiers hold their fire? I guess it was just the killer instinct within them.

    Talk about the Rules of Engagement being ignored!

    These folks need to be brought up on charges.

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