Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Iraq govt split over mass kidnapping

Relatives of kidnap victims wait outside the compound of the Higher Education Ministry in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi cabinet split on Wednesday over the fate of dozens of hostages snatched in a mass kidnap that raised new fears that sectarian militias can defy the government at will on the streets of Baghdad.

With momentum growing in Washington for a change in tack to force Iraqis to impose order and bring U.S. troops home, Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki played down Tuesday's daylight raid on a government building by gunmen in police uniforms.

He said most of those seized had now been released and the kidnappers would be found and punished.

But the Sunni minister for universities whose staff were snatched said between 70 and 80 people were still missing and were possibly held in a Shi'ite militia stronghold. He said he would boycott government activities until they were found.

"I have suspended my participation as a minister with the government until those people who have been kidnapped are released," Higher Education Minister Abd Dhiab told Reuters.

Several families, all Sunnis, said they had not heard from kidnapped relatives and feared the worst. The father of one said: "I'm sure the next place I see him will be the morgue."

But the minister also said Sunnis, as well as Shi'ites, were among 68 people so far freed, joining other senior officials in playing down indications that the raid had a sectarian motive.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the ministry was wrong to say over 100 people had been kidnapped. He said 37 had been released and only a handful were still missing.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Related Link:
Police commanders arrested following mass kidnapping at government building