Gunmen kidnapped an Iraqi journalist after breaking into her Baghdad home, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday, a reminder of the dangers reporters face in a war-torn country where authorities have struggled to maintain security.
The Interior Ministry said Afrah Shawqi al-Qaisi was abducted from her house in the southwestern Saydiyah neighborhood on Monday night. It called on residents to come forward with any information that might help the investigation. The ministry statement did not give details of the kidnapping.
Citing her family’s account, the head of the Baghdad-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, Ziyad al-Ajeeli, said eight gunmen arrived in at least two pickup trucks, claimed to be members of the security forces, and asked to search the house.
Once inside, they handcuffed al-Qaisi’s 16-year-old son, kept him in the kitchen and took gold, money, phones, laptops and a car, al-Ajeeli said. They also badly beat her brother-in-law, who lives next door, he added.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the security forces to investigate the kidnapping and to “exert the utmost effort” to save al-Qaisi.
Al-Qaisi, a veteran journalist and an employee of the Iraqi Culture Ministry, is a leading critic of the country’s endemic corruption.
On Monday, she published an article in a local media outlet criticising an Interior Ministry officer who badly beat a school principal in front of students and teachers for refusing to punish a pupil who quarrelled with the official’s daughter.
Iraq is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, who have been frequently targeted by militant groups since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Dozens of journalists have been killed while covering military operations.