150 kidnapped in Iraq
A policeman stands guard outside the compound
of the Higher Education Ministry in Baghdad
Gunmen kidnap up to 150 in Baghdad
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer 40 minutes ago
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gunmen dressed as police commandos kidnapped up to 150 staff and visitors in a lightning raid on a Baghdad higher education office Tuesday, in the largest mass abduction since the start of the U.S. occupation. At least 82 people were killed or found dead around the country.
Hours later, the Interior Ministry said three of the kidnap victims were apparently set free and found unharmed along eastern Baghdad's Palestine Street.
They were taken from a Higher Education Ministry office that handles research grants and academic exchanges. The fate of the other kidnap victims remained unknown.
Iraq's higher education minister immediately ordered all universities closed until security improvements are made, saying he was "not ready to see more professors get killed.
"I have only one choice which is to suspend classes at universities. We have no other choice," Abed Theyab said in an address to parliament. Theyab said he had repeatedly petitioned for more university security from the ministries of defense and interior, who command the police, but had received none.
In the day's worst violence, 21 people were killed and 25 injured in a car bombing targeting traffic along a highway toward the Shiite slum of Sadr City, police Lt. Ali Muhssin Said.
Clothes merchant Mohammed Ali, 30, had closed his shop early and was heading home when the bomb blast threw him from his motorcycle.
"I could see people on fire. We tried to rescue some women from a minibus, but they died in our arms," Ali said.
News of Tuesday morning's kidnapping sparked outrage after it was announced in parliament. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which commands the police, said the chief of police in the downtown Karradah neighborhood where the kidnappings occurred had been placed under investigation along with some of his officers.
Spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khallaf, didn't say whether the officers had been detained or whether they were suspected of participating in the kidnappings.
Alaa Makki, head of the parliament's education committee, interrupted the body's session Tuesday morning to say that between 100 and 150 people, both Shiites and Sunnis, had been abducted in the 9:30 a.m. raid.
He urged the prime minister and ministers of interior and defense to respond rapidly, calling the abductions a "national catastrophe."
"People in police commando uniforms" should read Police commandos.
posted by Steve @ 11:14:00 AM