Gunmen have kidnapped a brother of the Iraqi parliament's speaker Hajim al-Hassani, in the northern city of Kirkuk. An Iraqi police source told he was seized at around 6pm on Tuesday evening, when armed men stopped him on a road in the al-Wasiti area, near one of the city's main squares.
Search teams were immediately sent out, but police still have no information about who carried out the attack or where he might have been taken, the source said.
"We can't accuse anyone at the moment of having carried out this act, we have to wait a few days when a statement will probably be issued claiming responsibility, or those who kidnapped him will get in contact to communicate their demands and reasons," he told.
Al-Hakimi is a moderate Sunni Arab from Kirkuk who spent many years in the United States and was active in the opposition movement to Saddam Hussein while living in exile, rising through the ranks of the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP). He then returned to Iraq following the US invasion in 2003, and was previously the industry minister in Iyad Allawi's interim government. When the IIP quit the government, al-Hassani chose to leave the party so he could stay on as minister.
He provoked anger among the Sunnis by backing the US military assault on Fallujah a year ago, but later helped distribute humanitarian aid in the devastated city. However, he is considered an outsider by most Sunni Arabs and viewed with some suspicion by Shiites.
In July 2004 he escaped an assassination attempt when he left the headquarters of the IIP in Baghdad ten minutes before rebels attacked it with mortar fire.
Earlier this year he was offered the post of speaker in the government following months of wrangling over the position, and after interim president Ghazi al-Yawer turned it down, AKI reports.