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Monday, January 08, 2007
US confirms kidnapping of American citizen in Iraq
The United States embassy in Baghdad on Saturday confirmed the kidnapping of an American citizen, who has been working in Iraq as a private security contractor.

“I confirm the disappearance of the American. He is a private security contractor,” US embassy spokesman Louis Fintor said.

On Friday, the American and his two Iraqi interpreters were kidnapped from Al-Haritha, north of Basra, local police said.

The three were travelling in a car when three other cars full of gunmen ambushed them and kidnapped them, according to the police.

The kidnapping raised to six the number of private security contractors now held hostage in Iraq, after four Americans and an Austrian were kidnapped on November 16 from Safwan, near Basra.

Their captors had released a video earlier this week in which they appeared healthy but showed the hostages asking for the release of all detainees in American-run and British-run prisons in Iraq.

Several Islamist and nationalist resistance groups operate in Iraq, along with illegal political militias, corrupt security force units and criminal gangs who seize hostages for ransom.

NEW ASSAULT PLAN: Iraqi forces, backed by the US troops, will begin a neighborhood-by-neighborhood assault on militants in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad this weekend. This is a first step in the White House’s new strategy to contain Sunni insurgents and Shi’ite death squads, key advisers to the Iraqi Prime Minister has said.

The first details of the plan, which is fresh attempt to bring peace to Baghdad, emerged a day after US President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke for nearly two hours by video conference. Both leaders are expected to detail their vision of a new strategy in the coming days.

The aides of Al-Maliki would not disclose the scope of the planned assaults nor where they were specifically planned.

The Iraqis, however, continue to disagree with the US on key issues, including Al-Maliki’s unease over the introduction of more US troops.

Another point of contention is Al-Maliki’s repeated refusal of the USdemands to crush the militia of anti-American Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a powerful supporter of the Prime Minister.

Analysts fear that any serious campaign to curtail the extreme chaos and violence in Baghdad would put not only the American forces but also Al-Maliki’s Iraqi army in direct confrontation with Al-Sadr’s Mahdi army.

The militants are gaining more and more ground as they kill Sunni residents of the city and drive others from their neighborhoods.

In his discussions with Bush, Al-Maliki continued to press for a rapid US withdrawal from Baghdad to bases on the outskirts of Baghdad, an Iraqi official said. The Prime Minister, he said, has claimed that his forces would be ready to assume control of security for the whole country by summer.

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