Retired teacher Ali Sayadan al-Obeidi is a middle-class family man who fought the gangs that rule Baghdad's lawless streets and won. His four-year-old son Farouk was abducted by a criminal gang last month and freed only after he kidnapped one of the abductors. 'I always knew that almighty God would bring my son back,' Mr Obeidi said. Mr Obeidi's tale is one of fear that drove an educated middle-class Iraqi to take the law and a Kalashnikov into his own hands, spending night after night staking out his front door in the hope of confronting the men who took his son after the police told him there was nothing they could do. Rage impelled him to hold on to the suspected kidnapper hostage for six weeks, demanding that the career criminal's tribe cough up money before handing him back. But wisdom compelled the 55-year-old to let go of his anger and convene a summit on April 23 to resolve the matter peaceably. In Iraq, where a surge in violence and crime has fuelled madness in a once staid society, the absence of law and order has seen traditional forms of justice return. According to a study by Associated Press, violent deaths in Baghdad rose from an average of 14 a month in 2002 to 357 a month during the first 12 months of the occupation. Baghdad's murder rate is nearly twice that of Bogota, Colombia, and 10 times that of New York, according to morgue statistics. Kidnappings for ransom are also on the rise, although police cannot provide figures. Mr Obeidi's ordeal began with a knock at the door on April 9. His son opened it and was snatched. 'I could only sleep when I was so exhausted that I couldn't stay awake,' he said. The newly formed Iraqi police told them there was little they could do because kidnappings for ransom had become commonplace. Three days later there was another note. He called the satellite telephone number written on it and the kidnappers demanded US$30,000. Anticipating that the kidnappers would drop off another note, he kept a vigil at the door with his loaded gun. Three men did show up. As soon as they dropped off the note, Mr Obeidi ran after them and opened fire. Two escaped, but Mr Obeidi caught the ringleader and held him for six weeks. When he levelled his rifle at him and demanded to know his son's whereabouts, the boy was freed. That morning, he and his relatives found Farouk. Mr Obeidi said he resisted the temptation to abuse his son's alleged kidnapper, Salah al-Hayali, who had spent eight of his 34 years in prison. 'He was a professional criminal, a graduate of Saddam's prisons,' Mr Obeidi said. But he refused to hand Hayali over to police. 'If he went back to prison the Americans would let him loose in two weeks, and he and his tribe would be my enemies on the streets,' he said. Instead, he demanded US$120,000 cash from Hayali's tribe - based near the central Iraqi city of Balad - in exchange for his freedom. 'The tribal formula is that I would take a sum of money equal to the last sum of money he wanted from me, times four,' he said. Finally elders of both clans intervened, convening a tribal summit on a side street in a Baghdad neighbourhood. He has no regrets about his action because for him 'the dearest thing in the world is our children'.