Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
James Brandon (born 20 September 1980) is a British journalist, most recently working in Iraq freelance on assignment from the Sunday Telegraph and The Scotsman, covering the occupation and insurgency. During this assignment, he was kidnapped and held hostage, but eventually released.
Brandon was educated at Westminster School and then the University of York, where he read history and graduated in 2001 with first class honours. He subsequently spent four months working for the Yemen Times as a sub-editor and reporter, when he learned Arabic. He then enrolled in the School of Oriental and African Studies, reading "modern trends in political Islam", before joining the Baghdad Bulletin in July 2003, a start-up Iraqi paper staffed mainly by Oxbridge graduates, especially those from his school.
According to the Sunday Mirror, he changed his name by deed poll in 2002, from Andrew Nassim to James Brandon. On the name change, his sister commented: "Our name is Arabic so he changed it to make work easier." However, "James Brandon" is also the name of a former fellow student at school, who is some 3 years older. Brandon's (Nassim's) sister stated: "Itís complete coincidence if thereís someone else at his old school with the same name.Ē The original James Brandon stated: "Itís got to be more than coincidence but I donít know why he chose my name." Reportedly, the men barely knew each other. Brandon (Nassim, forthwith just "Brandon") has also on occasion given his name as James Andrew Brandon.
At roughly 23:00 local time, on August 13, 2004, Brandon was snatched from his room at the Diafa hotel by about 30 masked gunmen, some in police uniform. Later a video tape was released, featuring Brandon and a hooded militant, threatening to kill him within 24 hours unless US forces withdrew from Najaf, where they had cordoned off Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. Brandon was released after less than a day, following intervention by Moqtada al-Sadr. At a press conference immediately after his release, Brandon commented on his treatment and thanked his kidnappers: "Initially I was treated roughly, but once they knew I was a journalist I was treated very well and I want to say thank you to the people who kidnapped me." A spokesman for al-Sadr said: "We apologise for what happened to you. This is not our tradition, not our rules. It is not the tradition of Islam." , 
In a Sunday Telegraph feature, Brandon gives a detailed account of the kidnap. He describes being beaten and pistol-whipped by his angry kidnappers, as well as a series of mock executions. He recounts escaping, after holding a woman at knife-point, to a government building where sympathetic guards helped him, but his evasion attempt failed when his kidnappers found him. Although he expected to be killed, the video with the ultimatum was then recorded. Despite being told repeatedly that he was a journalist, his kidnappers appear to have assumed he was a spy or agent for the occupation. It was only when they saw a report about the kidnap on al-Arabiya television that his kidnappers came to believe him. Brandon's treatment improved markedly and he was told he was going to be released. Later he was taken to Sadrís Basra office where the press conference took place. Brandon was delivered to the British military police who gave him medical treatment and escorted him to Kuwait the following day. Brandon plans to see his family and go on holiday, but wants to return to Iraq : "Only next time, I just want to do the reporting. I have no desire to be the story again." 
- The Sunday Telegraph "I heard the terrifying click of the trigger in my first mock execution" August 15 (free but requires subscription)
- The Guardian - "Briton's release ordered by rebel cleric", August 14
- The Daily Telegraph - "British journalist freed by Sadr", August 14
- The Daily Telegraph - "Reporter knew risks of life in war zone", August 14
- The Sunday Mirror - "Oi! I'm the real James Brandon", August 15
- The Scotsman - "Journalist denies stealing fellow schoolboy's name ", August 17
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