Fears for kidnapped Britons


Summary

The British government said five British nationals had been kidnapped, while the Canadian security firm Garda World confirmed that the captives were four Britons employed as a security detail and their client, a management consultant.

VIDEO: Gunmen snatch five Britons

"We can confirm that a group of five British nationals were abducted in an incident at the finance ministry in central Baghdad," said a British foreign ministry spokeswoman, adding that the attack happened at 11:40 am local time.

"Officials from our embassy are in urgent contact with the Iraqi authorities to try to establish the facts and to secure a swift resolution," she said.

The men were snatched when police vehicles surrounded a finance ministry office on Palestine Street in the heart of Baghdad and a squad of men wearing police uniforms stormed the building, an Iraqi official said.

The four were taken away at gunpoint and driven off by men in the recently issued newly designed fatigues of the National Police, a heavily armed interior ministry paramilitary unit, he added.

Gunmen in police commando uniforms have been implicated in several high-profile mass kidnaps, and the latest attack will increase fears that rogue units infiltrated by illegal militias are running amok in Iraq.

Response team

A US-based management consultancy firm called BearingPoint announced that the kidnapped British contractor was one of its employees.

"We are fully cooperating with local and international authorities to ascertain facts surrounding this incident," said the firm, which has a US government contract to help rebuild Iraq's shattered economy.

After the abduction a British government crisis cell known as Cobra was activated to plan a response. Cobra stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A at the prime minister's office in Downing Street, where it usually meets.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said he had been appraised of the situation.

"We will do everything we possibly can to help," Mr Blair said.

Iraqi officials initially said German nationals had also been taken, but German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier could not confirm this.

In 2006, Baghdad suffered a rash of kidnappings by large numbers of men in military-style uniforms, particularly those of the national police. The units were then issued with new uniforms to distinguish them from criminals.

International contractors are frequent targets of insurgent and criminal gangs in Iraq. Some have been released unharmed, but others have been murdered by their captors.

Latest casualties

21 people killed and 53 injured after a car bomb exploded outside a Shiite prayer hall in south-western Baghdad, medical officials said.

12 people killed when a suicide car bomb exploded in a busy Baghdad square near a police patrol, hospital officials said.

Six soldiers killed and three wounded in a bomb attack on their convoy in Diyala province on Monday, according the US military.

Two more soldiers died when an army helicopter crashed in the province, a rural region north of Baghdad.

Another two soldiers were killed in Baghdad by a roadside bomb.

The latest casualties bring the American toll since the war began to 3,465, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.


The British government said five British nationals had been kidnapped, while the Canadian security firm Garda World confirmed that the captives were four Britons employed as a security detail and their client, a management consultant.

VIDEO: Gunmen snatch five Britons

"We can confirm that a group of five British nationals were abducted in an incident at the finance ministry in central Baghdad," said a British foreign ministry spokeswoman, adding that the attack happened at 11:40 am local time.

"Officials from our embassy are in urgent contact with the Iraqi authorities to try to establish the facts and to secure a swift resolution," she said.

The men were snatched when police vehicles surrounded a finance ministry office on Palestine Street in the heart of Baghdad and a squad of men wearing police uniforms stormed the building, an Iraqi official said.

The four were taken away at gunpoint and driven off by men in the recently issued newly designed fatigues of the National Police, a heavily armed interior ministry paramilitary unit, he added.

Gunmen in police commando uniforms have been implicated in several high-profile mass kidnaps, and the latest attack will increase fears that rogue units infiltrated by illegal militias are running amok in Iraq.

Response team

A US-based management consultancy firm called BearingPoint announced that the kidnapped British contractor was one of its employees.

"We are fully cooperating with local and international authorities to ascertain facts surrounding this incident," said the firm, which has a US government contract to help rebuild Iraq's shattered economy.

After the abduction a British government crisis cell known as Cobra was activated to plan a response. Cobra stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A at the prime minister's office in Downing Street, where it usually meets.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said he had been appraised of the situation.

"We will do everything we possibly can to help," Mr Blair said.

Iraqi officials initially said German nationals had also been taken, but German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier could not confirm this.

In 2006, Baghdad suffered a rash of kidnappings by large numbers of men in military-style uniforms, particularly those of the national police. The units were then issued with new uniforms to distinguish them from criminals.

International contractors are frequent targets of insurgent and criminal gangs in Iraq. Some have been released unharmed, but others have been murdered by their captors.

Latest casualties

21 people killed and 53 injured after a car bomb exploded outside a Shiite prayer hall in south-western Baghdad, medical officials said.

12 people killed when a suicide car bomb exploded in a busy Baghdad square near a police patrol, hospital officials said.

Six soldiers killed and three wounded in a bomb attack on their convoy in Diyala province on Monday, according the US military.

Two more soldiers died when an army helicopter crashed in the province, a rural region north of Baghdad.

Another two soldiers were killed in Baghdad by a roadside bomb.

The latest casualties bring the American toll since the war began to 3,465, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.