“The gunmen were accompanied by civilians with identification cards from Iraq’s Public Integrity Commission, an anti-corruption watchdog.” An update on this story. “U.S., Iraqi troops hunt for Britons; militia blamed,” by Mariam Karouny and Ahmed Rasheed for Reuters:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. and Iraqi soldiers searched Baghdad on Wednesday for five kidnapped Britons who Iraq’s foreign minister said had probably been taken by a
Troops raided Baghdad neighborhoods, including the Sadr City stronghold of the
Shi’ite Mehdi Army militia, after dozens of gunmen kidnapped a British computer expert
Peter Moore and his four bodyguards from a Finance Ministry building on Tuesday.
An Iraqi government official said the kidnappings could be in retaliation for
the killing of the top commander of fiery Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia by
British-backed Iraqi soldiers in Basra in the south last week.
“It may be the Mehdi Army because the location of the (kidnapping) is in their
theatre of operations,” Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters.
“Their safety is our top priority … I don’t think they will finish them. They are using them for bargaining, but they have not contacted anybody yet.”
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said British officials were working
with Iraqi authorities to find out how the Britons were abducted and to secure their swift
An Interior Ministry spokesman dismissed suggestions the kidnappers, dressed in police commando camouflage uniforms and driving official vehicles, were a renegade unit from his ministry.
Interior Ministry forces are known to be heavily infiltrated by Shi’ite
militias, including the Mehdi Army, and have often been accused of kidnappings and
But a top official in Sadr’s political movement, Abdul Mahdi al-Mutiri, said
the scale and organization of Tuesday’s operation was beyond the Mehdi Army’s
A government employee who witnessed the kidnappings also gave new details of
the well-planned operation and told how two other Westerners had narrowly escaped being
taken by the gunmen at the Finance Ministry building in Palestine Street.
The ministry identified the kidnapped Briton as Peter Moore and said he worked
for BearingPoint, a U.S.-based consulting firm. It appealed for his release, saying he had
been working in Iraq’s national interest.
It said the gunmen were accompanied by civilians with identification cards from
Iraq’s Public Integrity Commission, an anti-corruption watchdog. The commission denied any