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Iraqi PM Calls for Rapid Arrest of Ministry Kidnappers


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called for the quick arrest of the perpetrators of a mass kidnapping Tuesday in Baghdad. Gunmen dressed as police commandos kidnapped dozens of men from an institute belonging to the Higher Education Ministry. Most have since been released, but officials say some are still being held.

Prime Minister Maliki called the kidnappers worse than extremists because they abducted intellectuals and prevented universities from carrying out their work.

At a news conference held at Baghdad University, Mr. Maliki said Iraq's teachers and students are the hope for the country's future. He said those who try to destroy them are trying to destroy the country and it would not be tolerated.

Tuesdays raid was brazen, even by Baghdad standards. Some 80 men dressed as Iraqi police commandos burst into the Scientific Research Directorate of the Ministry of Education taking away all the men present. Officials initially said more than 100 people were kidnapped, but later revised that figure lower.

Five senior police officers from the Karradah district - where the kidnapping took place - have been detained for questioning.

Prime Minister Maliki, a Shi'ite, has come under fire because he has been unable to rein in Shiite militias with alleged links to the country's security forces. The prime minister has promised a cabinet shake up and his Shiite interior minister is expected to be removed.

Mr. Maliki acknowledged that the country is suffering from the actions of militias and terrorist groups and Saddam loyalists, and he said the kidnapping was the result of conflict between militias.

In a separate development, police say a car bomb exploded near a gasoline station in central Baghdad, killing and wounding several people.

Also, the U.S. military reported the deaths of four more American servicemen. Three Marines and one soldier were killed in the Western province of al-Anbar on Tuesday. More than 2,800 U.S. troops have been killed since the war began in 2003.

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