Engineer abducted in Iraq

Frenchman is latest foreigner kidnapped

December 06, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gunmen abducted a French engineer in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood yesterday, French and Iraqi officials said. He was the latest victim in a recent surge of kidnappings of Westerners.

The day also brought increasing tensions between two Shiite Muslim political factions as a result of violence that has flared up as parliamentary elections this month near.

In the capital, the U.S. military reported that an American soldier was killed when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb while on patrol the day before. No other details were provided.

Bernard Planche was leaving for work at a water treatment facility when several men abducted the engineer outside the gates of his home, Iraqi officials said. The French Embassy in Baghdad released a statement saying Planche lived without proper security and had not followed the embassy's advice, including the suggestion that he leave Iraq.

Five other Westerners have been abducted in the past 10 days. A German archeologist, her driver and four Christian aid workers -- an American, a Briton and two Canadians -- were kidnapped late last month.

Stating their demands on the Internet, Swords of Righteousness Brigade, a previously unknown group, has vowed to kill the four peace activists unless all Iraqi detainees are freed. The kidnappers of the German and her Iraqi driver have demanded that Germany stop cooperating with the Iraqi government.

Also yesterday, attackers killed an election official in Baqouba, about 35 miles north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. In the southern city of Samawah, gunmen ransacked the local campaign headquarters of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite candidate in the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

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