Emad Matti had not received a photograph of the hostages. Two months had passed, and several Iraqi Christian families that had been detained by the Islamic State in an old folks' home in Mosul were still imprisoned. From Kirkuk, Matti had been transferring $500 each month to a bank to feed the families, and he was afraid that they were dead, or that his informant in Mosul, one of their captors, was planning to prolong their imprisonment and collect even more money before demanding an impossible sum to drop them at the Kurdish border. For now, though, Matti just wanted photographic proof that they were still alive.
He checked his watch, a gold Breitling made from the weapons of martyrs in the Iran–Iraq War. The phone rang. He put a finger to his lips.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“It's the Islamic State.” He greeted his informant and put him on speakerphone so I could listen. “Okay, Abu Haydar. What happened to the pictures of the women and children?”
“I was there yesterday with Abu Hamid. Believe me, they are under high supervision but with Allah's will I will send you pictures of them.”
“I will be very grateful, Abu Haydar.”
Iconoclastic hostage negotiator Emad Matti has made saving his fellow Iraqi Christians his purpose in life.