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Americans, Briton Reportedly Taken Hostage in Iraq - 2004-09-16


A senior Iraqi official says two Americans and one British contractor were seized from their central Baghdad home and taken hostage.

Officials say the two Americans and one Briton lived in a house in Baghdad's wealthy Mansur neighborhood. Neighbors say a group of about 10 gunmen entered the house at dawn, taking the three foreigners. One neighbor said the house was poorly guarded.

Neither U.S nor British diplomats have confirmed the abduction. Officials from both embassies say they are investigating. The three men reportedly work for Gulf Services Company, a Middle East-based construction firm.

The incident is similar to the abduction of two Italian aid workers from their central Baghdad office 10-days ago. Witnesses say gunmen entered the office of their non-governmental organization, A Bridge to Baghdad, and took Simona Pari and Simona Torretta hostage, along with two Iraqi colleagues.

Rights workers, members of Iraq's aid community, and Islamic groups have condemned the abduction of the two women as unIslamic.

"We want to tell the kidnappers, the Italians are kind, and they came to help Iraqi people," said Abdul Salam Akubaisi, with the Muslim Clerics' Association. "They have no relation to the occupiers, and they are similar to the French, who were against the war."

Mr. Akubaisi added that the women were interested in Islam, and that the Prophet Mohammed calls for women to be honored, not humiliated.

There has been no word on the women's fate.

More than 100 foreigners are believed to have been abducted in Iraq since April. Often, militant groups have tried to use the hostages to force foreign governments to withdraw their forces from the U.S.-led coalition. Roughly two dozen hostages have been killed, some of them beheaded, and videos of those executions have then been posted on militant Web sites.

Two French journalists also remain missing. Georges Brunot and Christian Chesnot were seized by militants on August 20, outside the city of Najaf. Hopes had been raised about a possible release earlier this month, following an intense round of negotiations by the French government.

Earlier this week, two Australians and two Asians were reported abducted on the highway between the cities of Samarra and Mosul.

Australian officials have been unable to confirm their identity, raising suspicions that the report is a hoax.

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