RAY SUAREZ: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, welcome. It seemed that over the last day or so, there were more optimistic noises coming out of Baghdad regarding the kidnapping of this Korean hostage. What changed suddenly in the last half-day or so?
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, it's hard to tell exactly what had changed, although the belief here was that these insurgents that had captured Mr. Kim, the hostage, really were probably set on killing him all along. There were some interlocutors-- a Korean security firm that tried to intercede, that tried to establish some communications with various Sunni Muslim leaders that have ties in to various shadowy insurgent and terrorist groups operating in Fallujah. But it appears tonight, well, clearly those efforts were in vain, and that Mr. Kim was indeed executed by his captors.
RAY SUAREZ: Was there a sudden break off of the negotiations? Was there a final pronouncement by the captors?
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, it wasn't like there were any sort of face-to-face negotiations or anything that we might sort of consider a lot of two-way back-and-forth discussions. I think that there were more just sort of overtures to intermediaries, to other intermediaries. And for whatever reason, it just wasn't convincing enough. The hostage takers, as you all know, had a very clear demand that South Korea withdraw the 670 troops it has in the country-- those are primarily medical and engineering support personnel-- and cancel plans to send an additional 3,000 troops to Iraq. And when the South Korean government indicated that it wouldn't do so, a message that was pretty widely received in Iraq here, certainly carried on Arabic television stations, I think the captors realized that their efforts at trying to pressure the South Korean government weren't going to work.
RAY SUAREZ: What was Kim Sun-Il doing in Iraq, and had he been there long?
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, he was an Arabic speaker, as we know, also an evangelical Christian -- had been working as a translator for a South Korean company that was providing equipment and supplies to the U.S. Army. What is particularly interesting is that he was captured around the Fallujah area, at least according to everything we've been hearing. Now, that's a very dangerous area. All sorts of foreigners are advised to stay away from there. There's only very limited traffic there. We don't know the exact circumstances of how he was grabbed or exactly where, but it does raise some questions-- you know, what exactly was he doing in and around this very volatile and dangerous city?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, there was a video released from the pronouncements of the group that claimed themselves responsible. Do we know if they're allied to or, in fact, the same group that kidnapped and later killed American Nicholas Berg?
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: We don't know. I mean, there's certainly a lot of similarities here-- certainly the posing of the victim in an orange jumpsuit in front of them. One of the captors on the video that was released to al-Jazeera tonight had a large knife dangling from his belt. And certainly, according to people who have seen both of the videos, there are similarities in the way that the men were beheaded. But it's not at all clear that these were the same group. There was a lot of suspicion and belief that the killer of Nicholas Berg, the young American who died here, was Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant believed to be responsible for a number of the terrorist attacks in Iraq here over the last several months.
His hands are not... at least have not been immediately tied to this latest killing. The group that has claimed responsibility here is one of many different shadowy upstart groups that are operating in Iraq, and the accents of the people speaking seem to be, at least according to Iraqis who have heard the tape... don't seem to be those of people from the Fallujah area. So it raises questions, who are these people, and where are they from?
RAY SUAREZ: In the video, Kim pleaded for his own life, and in heartrending words: "Korean soldiers, please get out of here. I don't want to die." Those words riveted his own home country, and were seen by virtually every South Korean. Did they attract the same kind of attention in Iraq?
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, there was a lot of exposure. That video was replayed endlessly on al-Jazeera and Alarabiya, two Arab satellite channels that are widely watched here. So presumably not just the captors, who were savvy enough to have gotten their tape to al- Jazeera, they probably saw it, but a wide array of Iraqis have seen it. Now, it's not something, however, sad as it is to say, that galvanized a lot of attention here. I mean, Iraqis are... have become, in some ways, inured to the daily incidents of violence. There was a car bombing here in Baghdad today.
A prominent Iraqi professor was killed up in the northern city of Mosul. Reports of violence have just become sort of an hourly occurrence here, so this was just one in a stream of very sort of tragic developments to have taken place here over the past 48 hours in Iraq.
RAY SUAREZ: The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Thanks a lot for being with us.
RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN: Pleasure to talk to you.