The three US citizens that were reported missing in Baghdad have been abducted, two Iraqi MPs told Reuters on Monday.
The three were invited to a private event in the Dora district on Friday when they were kidnapped by unknown gunmen, said Mohammed al-Karbouli who sits on the security and defence panel of Parliament.
Another member of the same panel, Iskandar Witwit, gave a similar account, saying that they were kidnapped from the Sihha apartment buildings in the Dora district. Iraqi police and US authorities earlier said three US nationals had been reported missing in Baghdad. The police said they were investigating reports they were kidnapped.
Scaling up the efforts to find the missing trio, Iraqi security forces set up checkpoints in southeast Baghdad and sent out helicopter search parties on Monday.
Two Iraqi army helicopters were seen hovering over Dora while police SUVs patrolled the streets, residents said.
The predominately Sunni Muslim district was a bastion of the insurgency against the 2003 US invasion and the site of intense sectarian bloodletting that peaked around 2006-07.
Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, seen as a bulwark in the fight against Islamic State, also have a presence in the area.
And the capital of Iraq, OPEC’s second biggest oil exporter, has also seen a proliferation in recent years of well-armed criminal gangs that carry out contract killings, kidnappings and extortion.
Dubai-based news channel Al Arabiya said on Sunday that three US nationals had been kidnapped with their translator. Citing its own sources, it said the Americans were “contractors or trainers” employed by US companies at Baghdad airport.
The US State Department said on Sunday it was working with Iraqi authorities to locate Americans reported missing, without confirming that they had been kidnapped.