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Violence Continues in Iraq; Deputy Health Minister Kidnapped


Iraq's deputy health minister has been kidnapped in Baghdad, continuing a wave of brazen abductions in the country. Bloodshed also continued across Iraq, with more than 50 deaths reported Sunday. The violence came as Syria's foreign minister visited Baghdad for talks with Iraqi officials.

Iraqi authorities say gunmen kidnapped Deputy Health Minister Ammar al-Saffar at his home in Baghdad. Details of the incident are sketchy, but the incident follows the abduction of scores of people at Iraq's Education Ministry as well as the kidnapping of Shi'ite bus passengers at a roadblock.

Five foreign private security guards - four American and one Austrian - were also kidnapped last week.

Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Samir al-Sumaidaie, reacted to the latest abduction on CNN's Late Edition program.

"That underscores the challenges that each and every official of the Iraqi government is facing," said Samir al-Sumaidaie. "Every day is a day of risk-taking, a day of danger. Yet the government goes on and people go to work. It underscores the necessity of bringing some control over the security situation."

The ambassador added that foreign terrorists as well as onetime loyalists of Saddam Hussein have pushed his country to the brink of civil war. He said militias must be brought under control, and that criminal elements must be eliminated from Iraq's security forces.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber killed at least 22 people in a town south of the Iraqi capital after luring people to his explosives-laden vehicle with the promise of work. Attacks elsewhere in the country left a total of at least 30 people dead.

In an effort to quell the violence, Iraqi officials are reaching out to neighboring countries. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem arrived in the Iraqi capital, the first visit by a high-ranking Syrian official since US-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have accused Syria of actively undermining Iraq's security situation by facilitating the passage of foreign fighters into Iraq. Syria denies the allegation.