12 kidnapped from Iraq-US Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Khaleej Times, Auguest 1 – Armed men in Iraqi national police uniforms kidnapped 12 workers on Monday at the headquarters of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, interior and defence ministry officials said.

The kidnapping came after a morning of violence across the country left at least 16 people dead, including two senior officers from the military and intelligence services.

Riding in 15 GMC jeeps of a kind used by police, the kidnappers descended on Al-Arassat Street in the commercial heart of Baghdad and led away the head of the chamber and 11 co-workers, an interior ministry source said.

The raid took place in broad daylight at midday on a busy street. There was no indication that any Americans were among those taken.

“I saw police cars without number plates come up to the office,” a guard from a building across the street told AFP. “They separated the women employees and took only men. They took some guards, workers and the manager.”

The not-for-profit IACCI was founded in May 2003 in Los Angeles by a group of exiled Iraqi businessmen and now represents firms seeking to boost trade ties with the United States.

Several recent kidnappings in Iraq have been carried out by groups wearing police or army uniforms, and government ministers admit they are battling to purge the security services of disloyal and corrupt officers.

There are persistent allegations that some security officers — particularly national police commandos — work with sectarian militias and death squads or support partisan political movements rather than the coalition government.

Police uniforms are on sale openly in Baghdad markets, however.

The bodies of murdered Iraqi kidnap victims, many of them tortured or beheaded, are found every day around the country. Baghdad in particular has been the scene of sectarian violence, and insurgents target US symbols.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden car into an Iraqi army observation post 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the northern city of Mosul, killing four soldiers and wounding six, a miltary source said.

Unidentified gunmen killed Brigadier Fakhri Jamil of the Iraqi government intelligence service in his car in the Yarmuk area of western Baghdad, another defence official told AFP.

Another senior officer, police Lieutenant Colonel Sattar Sandl, was killed while fixing his car in Samarra, police said.

Assassins also gunned down Bassim Abdulhamid, an employee of the Sunni endowment which manages Sunni mosques, in a drive-by shooting at his house in Amara in mainly Shia southern Iraq, police said.

There was a rash of shootings around Baquba, north of Baghdad, which left two soldiers, two civilians and a policeman dead.

Meanwhile, two workmen were shot dead and two more injured in Baghdad, said medical sources, and another civilian was killed west of Kirkuk.

Insurgents detonated a car bomb north of the town of Hilla, south of the capital, killing one police officer, according to police.

US forces in Iraq were attacked in two separate roadside bomb attacks.

Two coalition soldiers were wounded south of Baghdad near Hilla when their convoy was bombed, a US spokesman said, and in eastern Baghdad one coalition soldier was wounded.

A car bomb in Waziriyah in western Baghdad targeted a police patrol, wounding a policeman and a civilian, said an interior ministry official.