5 British nationals are kidnapped from ministry

Other News Materials 30 May 2007 11:20 (UTC +04:00)

( LatWp ) - Men in Iraqi police uniforms Tuesday abducted five British nationals from the Iraqi finance ministry while two car bombs ripped crowded streets in Baghdad, killing at least 33 people.

Dozens of police vehicles pulled up to the finance ministry's administrative building and the men, clad in police uniforms, went inside, grabbed the five and took them away, said an interior ministry official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The British embassy in Baghdad confirmed that five of its nationals were abducted at 11:50 a.m. from the finance ministry. Spokeswoman Rosie Tapper said the embassy had been in contact with the Iraqi authorities to establish what happened and to secure their citizens' release.

The Canadian-based security company GardaWorld said four of its British security guards and their client were kidnapped, wire services reported.

Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad is considered under the sway of Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's al-Mahdi militia, and the use of police vehicles is a hallmark of abductions carried out by group. The Shiite militia was suspected of carrying out the abduction of dozens of employees from Iraq's higher education ministry in November.

Since the start of the Baghdad security plan in February, the al-Mahdi militia has refrained from major attacks in Baghdad.

The abductors apparently were heard shouting, ``Where are the foreigners? Where are the foreigners?'' according to Reuters news agency.

The raid marked the first known kidnapping in Baghdad of a Westerner since the security plan began. Iraqis in Baghdad are kidnapped almost daily, sometimes by criminals but also by Sunni Muslim insurgents and Shiite militias. In the past, foreigners have been a favored target of armed groups.

In other violence Tuesday, car bombs ripped Shiite districts in eastern and western Baghdad. The car bomb by a Shiite mosque in the western Ammal district killed 15 people and wounded 60 others. At Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital a man and his wife, both victims of the attack, were lying on stretchers inside the emergency room. The man, who had his right foot amputated, screamed at his wife, who was in a coma from shrapnel wounds: `` Fatima! Where are the kids Fatima?''

In eastern Baghdad's Tayaran square, 18 people were killed and 50 injured when a car bomb exploded, police said. The bomb targeted a police patrol, the source said.

Meanwhile, 31 bodies were found dumped around Baghdad, bearing gunshot wounds and signs of torture, an interior ministry official said.