Iraqi hunt for missing Americans

  • 19/01/2016
Iraqi hunt for missing Americans

Security forces in Baghdad were hunting for three US citizens who Iraqi MPs say have been kidnapped, which if confirmed would make them the first Americans abducted in the country since US troops withdrew in 2011.

Unknown gunmen seized the trio from a private apartment on Friday (local time) in the capital's southeastern Dora district, said Mohammed al-Karbouli, who sits on parliament's security and defence panel.

It was not immediately clear if their motives were political or criminal.

Iskandar Witwit, deputy head of the same panel, gave a similar account citing senior security officials, who said the civilians had been taken from the district's Sihha residential complex.

Two of the three also had Iraqi citizenship, he said.

Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim militia fighters, seen as a bulwark in the fight against Islamic State militants, have a heavy presence in that part of the predominantly Sunni district.

The three men work for a small company that is doing maintenance work for the information technology division of General Dynamics Corp, under a larger contract with the US Army, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The names of two of the men, which were first published by Fox News and other media outlets, are Wael al-Mahdawy and Amro Mohammed, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The name of the third man was not immediately available.

Mark Meudt, a spokesman for General Dynamics, referred all queries to the US State Department.

The State Department said on Sunday it was working with Iraqi authorities to find Americans reported missing, without confirming they had been kidnapped.

A State Department spokeswoman declined on Monday to provide any further comment, citing "privacy considerations".

Dora was a bastion of the insurgency against the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and the site of intense sectarian bloodletting that peaked around 2006-07.

Federal police now run most checkpoints there.

The capital of Iraq, OPEC's second biggest oil exporter, has seen a proliferation in recent years of well-armed criminal gangs that carry out contract killings, kidnappings and extortion.

Iraqi police set up extra checkpoints in Dora on Monday and sent out helicopter search parties.

Two Iraqi army helicopters were seen hovering over the district, while police vehicles patrolled the streets, residents said.