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Italian Journalist Abducted in Baghdad


An Italian journalist working for a leftist newspaper was kidnapped in Iraq Friday. It is the first reported abduction of a foreigner since Iraq's election last week.

An Italian journalist was kidnapped in Baghdad Friday as she conducted interviews in the street near Baghdad University. Giuliana Sgrena, 56, works for the communist newspaper Il Manifesto.

Gunmen blocked the journalist's car. She was with her interpreter and driver but only the journalist was abducted. An armed group calling itself Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the latest kidnapping on the Internet.

In its message it gave the Italian government 72 hours to withdraw its troops from Iraq saying no one will be safe while a single Italian soldier remains on Iraqi soil.

Ms. Sgrena's colleagues at the newspaper, where she was highly regarded, were devastated by the news of the abduction. They praised her work and said she had become known for her reporting on Iraqi woman's lives.

Her editor, Gabriele Polo, said he had spoken to her not long before news of the abduction reached him.

All the work that we have done until now, he said, has been with a commitment in favor of peace.

An urgent meeting was called in Rome of Italy's interior and foreign ministers and intelligence officials to assess the situation. Iraq's ambassador to Rome was summoned and assured total collaboration from the Baghdad authorities.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini called for political unity, urging the opposition to put aside differences on Iraqi policies.

Mr. Fini said every effort is being made to secure the release of the journalist in the shortest possible time.

Ms. Sgrena is the eighth Italian to be taken hostage in Iraq in the past year. Another Italian journalist, Enzo Baldoni, was abducted in August by an organization calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq. He was killed after Rome refused to give in to the group's demand that it withdraw its troops from Iraq.

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