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Gunmen Abduct Westerners In Iraq

Breaking news reports, first from the New York Times, which is reporting on the bold kidnaping of three German-citizen lecturers from the Finance Ministry building in Baghdad.

Men wearing camouflage commando uniforms today abducted at least three Western lecturers from a building that houses the Finance Ministry in central Baghdad, an official of the Ministry of the Interior said.

The group of lecturers had been guiding ministry employees through complex contracts in a building on Palestine Street when the attack occurred.

Meanwhile, there are reports out of London that the number of kidnap victims is higher, and includes British guards.

The Foreign Office was today "urgently" looking into reports that four British security guards and one further Briton are among at least seven Westerners kidnapped by gunmen in Iraq.

All seven, including three computer programmers, were reportedly taken from a finance ministry building in central Baghdad.

Details are sketchy on the nationality and exact number of those kidnapped, but if the reports that five Britons were among the hostages is true, it will be the largest group of British security guards taken in Iraq.

The Ministry building lies outside of the heavily fortified Green Zone on Palestine Street, one of the main arteries into al-Sadr city, but surely there were security forces in the Ministry building. There have been several kidnappings in Ministry buildings of late, as the Times reports:

Kidnappings and attacks at Iraqi government ministry buildings have occurred frequently in recent years.

Dozens of Iraqi employees of the Ministry of Higher Education were abducted in November from the ministry's headquarters in Baghdad during office hours by militiamen dressed in police commando uniforms.

In February, the Iraqi vice president, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was the target of an assassination attempt in a government ministry. A suicide bomber exploded near him, and shrapnel cut his leg, shoulder and finger.

UPDATE: AFP is reporting that the kidnappers were wearing national police uniforms, and that four Germans were kidnapped.

Four Germans working for the Iraqi finance ministry were reported kidnapped in Baghdad on Tuesday by men wearing national police uniforms. The men are computer science experts training civil servants at the ministry's information department on Palestine Street in the city centre when 40 police vehicles surrounded the building, he said.
[...]

The four men were taken out at gunpoint and driven off by men wearing the new uniforms of the national police, a heavily-armed paramilitary unit under the interior ministry.

The German ambassador to Baghdad said he had no comment and referred all queries to Berlin. A Western security source, however, described the victims as one expert and three bodyguards.

US MIlitary deaths in Iraq are mounting -- seemingly unabated by the stepped-up security.

The American military said today that eight more Americans soldiers have died in Iraq. Six died in an explosion near their vehicle and two others in a helicopter crash.

The deaths bring to 112 the number of deaths of American soldiers in May, making it the worst month of the year and the worst since the new security plan added troops in Iraq and moved soldiers away from the large bases of operation.

Violence continued elsewhere in Iraq today, as a bomb in a parked bus exploded in central Baghdad, killing at least 22 people and wounding 55 others, Reuters reported, citing police.

The explosion was in a busy commercial area usually filled with markets, where many day laborers, mostly poor Shiites, often wait for work.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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