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Kidnappings Prompt Iraqi Red Crescent to Close Baghdad Offices


One of the few aid organizations left in Iraq, the Iraqi Red Crescent, has suspended its operations in Baghdad, following the kidnapping of 30 men from its office Sunday. From Baghdad, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms burst into the Karradah neighborhood offices of the Red Crescent, abducting 30 men Sunday and taking them away in pick-up trucks. Most of the victims were employees and guards.

A Red Crescent official says six hostages had been released, but 21 employees and three visitors to the aid group's offices remain in captivity.

The organization, which is part of the International Red Cross movement says it is suspending its work in Baghdad until all the hostages are released. A spokesman said the group's offices in other Iraqi provinces are continuing to operate.

This Red Crescent volunteer told Iraqi television that the mass abduction will not stop the organization from doing its work in Baghdad or elsewhere.

The aid group has about 1,000 employees and 200,000 volunteers in Iraq. It works closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which visits detainees and tries to provide food, water, and medicine to Iraqis.

Meanwhile, the genocide trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein resumed. Saddam and six of his former lieutenants are on trial in connection with the killing of 180,000 Kurds in northern Iraq during the Anfal campaign of the late 1980s.

Prosecutors submitted into evidence memorandums and other documents they say link the defendants to the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish population.

One memorandum prosecutors submitted to the court was from Saddam's office to military intelligence and ordered a strike with "special ammunition" and possibly delivered by aircraft or artillery.

Saddam's cousin and co-defendant, Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as Chemical Ali, defended himself before the court, denying that the military intelligence office that he ran at the time issued such an order. He said it came from the General Intelligence Directorate of which he was not a part.

The defendants face the death penalty if they are convicted. Saddam's lawyers have filed an appeal in an earlier case in which he was ordered to hang for his role in the execution of 148 Shiite men from the village of Dujail, after an assassination attempt against him there in 1982.

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