Gunmen wearing police uniforms kidnapped 22 shepherds and their sheep in southern Iraq near the Shiite city of Karbala on Wednesday, local police spokesman Rahman Mushawi said.
Travelling in three cars, the insurgents rounded up the shepherds, confiscated their truck, herd and weapons and drove them across the desert towards Fallujah in the neighbouring Sunni province of Al-Anbar, he said.
The spokesman said police had been alerted to the kidnap by witness Mohammed Abdul Kadhon, a brother of one of the snatched shepherds.
"This is a organised terrorist act that has no link to police of Karbala. We have warned them (shepherds) not to cooperate with police who do not have badges," Mushawi added.
Abductions are rife in Iraq as the country battles a Sunni-led insurgency opposed to the Shiite-dominated government and its US backers, as well as sectarian strife between majority Shiites and the ousted Arab elite.
Earlier this week, gunmen kidnapped and killed 21 Shiite workers travelling home from Baghdad. Their bodies were found one day later in the province of Diyala, northeast of the Iraqi capital.
There has been no word on another nine Shiite workers abducted in similar circumstances a day later in Diyala.
Al-Anbar province, west of Baghdad, has been a bastion for both Sunni Arab insurgents and Al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq.