Los Angeles Times
December 18, 2006
About 28 people are seized in the midday raid. A roadside bomb kills three U.S. soldiers.
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD — Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms kidnapped more than two dozen people from the Baghdad offices of the Red Crescent humanitarian group on Sunday, and the U.S. military announced the deaths of three more American soldiers.
The gunmen pulled up to the Red Crescent building near downtown Baghdad's Andalus Square about 11:30 a.m. in two police cars and 20 other cars, a spokesman for the aid organization said. Staff members thought the men were police and allowed them to enter the building, he said.
Once inside, the kidnappers separated men from women and abducted an estimated 28 men, according to the spokesman. The victims included Red Crescent staff, visitors and three guards from the Dutch Embassy, which has been vacated but still shares the office, he said.
Red Crescent staff members called the Iraqi Interior and Defense ministries and were told neither had troops in the area, said the spokesman, who requested anonymity because of concerns for his safety.
"We do not suspect anyone, as we are a humanitarian organization that does no harm to any bloc," he said.
The Red Crescent Society, which is affiliated with the International Committee of the Red Cross, has about 1,000 staff members and 200,000 volunteers in Iraq, providing food, water and medicine.
The U.S. military announced Sunday that three U.S. soldiers stationed in Baghdad were killed Saturday by a roadside bomb while on a combat mission north of the capital.
Their deaths bring the U.S. military toll so far this month to at least 57, on pace to surpass the 69 tallied in November, according to http:www.icasualties.org
, which tracks casualties in the conflict. In October, 106 American soldiers were killed, according to the website.
So far, the website shows, 2,946 American troops have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003.
Commenting on the dire situation in the war-torn country, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that a temporary increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, an idea under serious consideration by the White House, would probably not quell sectarian violence in Baghdad because U.S. forces were already overextended.
"The American army isn't large enough to secure Baghdad," said Powell, a retired Army general who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work."
But Tariq Hashimi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents, argued on CNN's "Late Edition" that more U.S. forces were needed in the Iraqi capital. "Iraqi troops, across the board, they are insufficient, incompetent and many of them [are] corrupted," said Hashimi, who met last week with President Bush.
The incoming Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said on ABC's "This Week" that he would support a U.S. troop increase "for two or three months … [if] it's part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year."
Also on Sunday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki in Baghdad and then with British troops in the southern city of Basra. It was Blair's sixth visit to Iraq since 2003.
Blair commended Maliki's efforts to end sectarian violence and added that British troops would continue to train Iraqi soldiers and police "so that in time the Iraqi people can take full responsibility for their affairs." More than 7,000 British troops are in Iraq, primarily in the south.
During the 24 hours ending Sunday night, Baghdad police found 36 bodies. All of the victims had been shot several times; some had been handcuffed, blindfolded and tortured, the Interior Ministry said.
Sunni Muslim militias killed at least one woman in attacks on two villages near Taji, about 12 miles north of Baghdad, Taji police said.
Militia members, mainly former fighters loyal to Saddam Hussein, had been sniping and firing mortar shells into the area for the last four days, the police said.
The insurgents set up makeshift checkpoints and burned a house in an effort to evict residents, police said, adding that the woman who was killed had refused to leave.
In the city of Iskandariya, about 25 miles south of Baghdad, two men were killed late Saturday after gunmen opened fire at them, according to a relative who delivered the victims' bodies to police Sunday.
In Hillah, a roadside bomb killed a soldier and injured another Sunday. The U.S. Consulate and an American base in the southern city were hit in a mortar attack, according to police. Times staff writers Leslie Hoffecker in Washington and Zeena Kareem, Suhail Ahmad and Raheem Salman in Baghdad, along with special correspondents in Baghdad, Hillah and Taji, contributed to this report.