Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Westerners 'abducted in Baghdad'

(BBC) - A number of Westerners have reportedly been kidnapped from a finance ministry building in central Baghdad. There is confusion over the number and nationality of those involved. They are believed to include at least one finance expert, thought to be German, and at least four bodyguards, believed to be British.
"We are aware of reports that a group of westerners have been kidnapped. We are urgently looking into them," the UK foreign office said. Central Baghdad was also wracked by a bus explosion which killed at least 22 people and injured about 55. It is not clear if the parked minibus was carrying any passengers. The attack took place in Tayaran Square, where labourers wait for daily construction work. The blast comes a day after a car bomb killed at least 20 people in the Sinak commercial district in Iraq.
COMMENT: There are currently conflicting versions of this story. Below is teh report from Reuters. COMMENT ENDS.
(Reuters) - Gunmen wearing police uniforms kidnapped at least three Western lecturers and several of their bodyguards from a Finance Ministry building in central Baghdad on Tuesday, a witness told Reuters. Police said the lecturers were German and they were seized from their cars outside the ministry building. The lecturers had been advising ministry personnel on organizing electronic contracts, said the witness, who did not want to be identified.
The gunmen entered the lecture room led by a man wearing a police major's uniform. "Where are the foreigners, where are the foreigners?," the gunmen shouted, according to the witness who was in the conference room.
At least 22 people were killed and 55 were wounded when a bomb planted in a parked minibus exploded in a busy commercial area in central Baghdad, police said. The blast was near a major intersection in Tayaran Square, an area filled with markets where day laborers, usually poor Shi'ites, queue for work.
No other details were immediately available.
More than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the U.S.-led invasion to topple
Saddam Hussein
in 2003, although there had been a relative lull in the taking of foreigners in recent months.
Most of the foreign hostages who have been taken in Iraq
have been released but at least 60 have been reported killed by their captors.
The witness in the Finance Ministry said another lecturer escaped being abducted because he was sitting apart from his colleagues. The lecturers, all men and employed by a U.S. organization, had given at least 12 lectures at the ministry over the past year, she said. There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Embassy. A source at the Finance Ministry confirmed the lecturers had been kidnapped but said he had no further information.
Tuesday's assault appeared to be the first time Westerners have been kidnapped from inside an Iraqi government building where many foreigners work assisting the government, and as contractors. A German woman, married to an Iraqi doctor, and her son were kidnapped on February 6. Last year two German engineers were captured in Iraq and held for 99 days before they were freed, although it was not clear if a ransom was paid. German archaeologist Susanne Osthoff was also held by an Islamist group.

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