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Iraqi Security Forces Search for Kidnapped Journalists


Iraq security forces have launched an intensive search for a British journalist and his Iraqi translator, kidnapped Sunday in the southern city of Basra. On Tuesday, another journalist from Iraq was found shot to death in Baghdad. Deborah Block reports from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Witnesses say the kidnapping in Basra happened Sunday when about 10 gunmen stormed a hotel and seized the British reporter and his Iraqi interpreter. Both were working for the U.S. television network CBS which has not released their names. Witnesses say the reporter is a British photo-journalist who had previously worked in Basra. An Iraqi security official says one man has been detained in connection with the kidnapping.

Basra is Iraq's second-largest city and is predominately Shi'ite. The province has been the scene of intense fighting between rival Shi'ite militias, the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and Badr Brigades of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council.

Harith al-Edhari, an official in Sadr's Basra office, says the kidnappers should release the two men.

He says that if the perpetrators belong to a resistance group, resistance does not target humanitarian workers and the journalists are humanitarian employees.

On Tuesday, an Iraqi journalist who works for a media watchdog group was found shot to death in Baghdad. The man's employer, The Young Journalists League, says 27-year-old Hisham Michwit Hamdan went missing Sunday after leaving the group's offices.

A number of Iraqi and foreign journalists have been kidnapped or killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion. The country is regarded as the most dangerous in the world for journalists.

Meanwhile, a police officer was killed and two others wounded Tuesday when gunmen in a speeding car attacked their patrol just south of Basra.

Also, gunmen opened fire on a school bus in central Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, killing two girls and a boy and wounding the driver and two other students.

Also in Diyala province, Iraqi police say a mass grave with 13 decomposed bodies was uncovered in an orchard near the city of Muqdadiyah. A similar mass grave containing the bodies of 19 executed men was discovered near Muqdadiyah at the end of January.

Diyala is one of Iraq's most dangerous provinces and a stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq.


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