Two Americans, Briton snatched in Baghdad

Two Americans, Briton snatched in Baghdad

BAGHDAD – Gunmen snatched two Americans and a Briton from a house in central Baghdad yesterday, the latest in a wave of abductions of foreigners in Iraq.

The kidnappings add to a sense of insecurity created by months of violence that has prompted UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to question whether elections can be held in January, as planned by the Iraqi interim government and its US backers. Iraq’s interior ministry, amending an earlier statement, said two were US citizens and one of the men was British.Believed to be civilians, they were staying at a house in the Mansur district of the capital, a wealthy neighbourhood where many foreign businessmen and contractors live, when the group of around 10 gunmen stormed the building at dawn.An interior ministry spokesman said no shots were fired.Colonel Adnan Abdel-Rahman quoted witnesses as saying the men had been bundled into a minivan and driven off.Neighbours described the men as young.One named their company as al-Khalij Contracting.They said their house was poorly secured, with only one unarmed guard at the gate.One neighbour, Umm Seif Samarraie, said the contractors had received at least three threats before.In the two-storey concrete house, little seemed to have been touched.A Reuters correspondent saw air-conditioners and computers still running, although drawers appeared to have been rifled through.The US embassy said it had no independent information.The British embassy said it was investigating.More than 100 foreigners have been snatched in recent months.Some two dozen have been killed but most have been freed.At least four Europeans are being held – two male French journalists seized last month and two Italian women aid workers.The latest abductions follow a spate of violence in which nearly 200 Iraqis have been killed in bomb blasts, clashes and other attacks countrywide over the past few days.- Nampa-ReutersIraq’s interior ministry, amending an earlier statement, said two were US citizens and one of the men was British.Believed to be civilians, they were staying at a house in the Mansur district of the capital, a wealthy neighbourhood where many foreign businessmen and contractors live, when the group of around 10 gunmen stormed the building at dawn.An interior ministry spokesman said no shots were fired.Colonel Adnan Abdel-Rahman quoted witnesses as saying the men had been bundled into a minivan and driven off.Neighbours described the men as young.One named their company as al-Khalij Contracting.They said their house was poorly secured, with only one unarmed guard at the gate.One neighbour, Umm Seif Samarraie, said the contractors had received at least three threats before.In the two-storey concrete house, little seemed to have been touched.A Reuters correspondent saw air-conditioners and computers still running, although drawers appeared to have been rifled through.The US embassy said it had no independent information.The British embassy said it was investigating.More than 100 foreigners have been snatched in recent months.Some two dozen have been killed but most have been freed.At least four Europeans are being held – two male French journalists seized last month and two Italian women aid workers.The latest abductions follow a spate of violence in which nearly 200 Iraqis have been killed in bomb blasts, clashes and other attacks countrywide over the past few days.- Nampa-Reuters

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