Gunmen abduct at least 24 people in Baghdad

Updated on Mar 28, 2006 06:22 PM IST

Three groups of gunmen kidnapped at least 24 Iraqis working at a currency exchange and two electronics stores in Baghdad.

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None | ByAssociated Press, Baghdad

Three groups of gunmen kidnapped at least 24 Iraqis working at a currency exchange and two electronics stores in Baghdad on Tuesday, the interior ministry said.

The abductions occurred separately but over the same 30 minute, the ministry said.

Fifteen gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed the Moussa Bin Nasir Exchange Co in the southwest Harthiyah neighborhood about 1 pm.

Six people were kidnapped and tens of thousands of dollars were stolen, police Lt Col Ali Rashid said. The kidnappers arrived in nine civilian cars, he said.

Also at 1 pm, seven gunmen in civilian clothes ran into an Daewoo International electronics store in the downtown Karradah district and snatched three employees, including the store manager, police Lt Thaer Mahmoud said.

At 1:30 pm, masked gunmen in military uniforms and helmets stormed a different branch of the same company in eastern Baghdad, abducting 15 employees, Lt Col Falah al-Mohmmedawi said.

The kidnappers in that operation arrived in 16 civilian cars. The mass kidnappings came a day after gunmen took hostage 16 employees of an Iraqi trading company in Baghdad's upscale western neighborhood of Mansour.

They also wore uniforms and masks and showed up in four civilian cars at the headquarters of the Saeed Import and Export Co Police said the kidnappers went through papers and computer files before taking away their captives, al-Mohammadawi said.

Rafidh Salim Saleh, a worker at the company who avoided capture, said the had been working in Iraq more than 30 years and was involved with an electricity project in Youssifiyah, 20 kilometers south of Baghdad.

He said a motive for the abductions was not known.

"The company has no political or terrorist ties or any activities that are anti-government," he said. "We don't even keep a gun."

In another audacious attack on a locally owned security firm earlier this month, gunmen dressed as Interior Ministry commandos stormed into the al-Rawafid Security Co's east Baghdad headquarters and took away 50 people, many of them former military personnel from Saddam Hussein's regime. Those employees have not been heard from since the March 8 attack.

Thousands of people have been kidnapped in the chaos of post-invasion Iraq.

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