Source Pravda.Ru

Fate of foreigners in Iraq is quite ruefully

Gunmen have kidnapped a British man and two Americans from a house in an affluent central Baghdad neighbourhood, the latest in a nearly six-month campaign of abductions of foreigners in Iraq. Police said they had found the corpse of a man believed to be a Westerner near the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad. The body was bloated, suggesting the man had been dead for some time, the police said. As well as the two Americans and the Briton, four Europeans are known to have been taken &to= english.pravda.ru/printed.html?news_id=14037' target=_blank>hostage in the past few weeks - two male French journalists and two Italian female aid workers. Militants posted video footage on the Internet purportedly showing the killing of three Arabic-speaking truckers, who were also shown warning others against working with &to= english.pravda.ru/main/2003/01/05/41651.html' target=_blank>U.S. forces in Iraq. In northern Iraq, gunmen kidnapped a Syrian truck driver. The incidents on Thursday added to a sense of insecurity created by months of violence that has prompted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to question whether elections can be held in January, as planned by Iraq's interim government and its U.S. backers. George W. Bush's challenger in November's U.S. presidential election, John Kerry, also questioned Iraq's vote timetable and a leaked U.S. intelligence report offered a gloomy outlook, with the worst scenario being a deterioration into civil war, informs Reuters.

According to the NYTimes, the abductions echoed those of two 29-year-old Italian women working for a humanitarian group and two of their Iraqi co-workers, who were seized on Sept. 7. In both cases, the hostage-takers staged their raids in the heart of the capital.

The fate of &to= english.pravda.ru/accidents/d?count=10 ' target=_blank>the two Italian women, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, remains unknown, as does that of two French journalists seized in August, Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot.

Kidnappings are quickly forcing changes in the way foreigners live and work here, with security advisers scrambling to increase armed guards at private homes or move residents into hotels.

No group claimed responsibility for the latest kidnappings. More than 100 foreigners have been taken since April, including at least four Americans prior to today's incident. While most of those abducted have been freed, some have been murdered by decapitation.

Most kidnappings are believed to be done by groups more keen on financial gain than ideological warfare, with a cottage industry of ransom rapidly growing across the country.