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Kidnapped Iraqi minister says he escaped abductors

Written by: Staff

BAGHDAD, July 5 (Reuters) Iraq's deputy electricity minister, who was briefly kidnapped along with his bodyguards yesterday, escaped captivity from a house in Baghdad after one of his guards managed to untie himself, an aide said today.

There was no independent confirmation of the account from the police or interior ministry, and the aide said the deputy minister was resting with his family after his ordeal.

Police said yesterday that gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms abducted Raad al-Harith and 19 bodyguards after stopping his convoy in an area close to Sadr City, a stronghold of the Mehdi Army militia of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Harith was later reported to have been released near where he was kidnapped.

The aide, who did not want to be named, said the convoy was halted by a fake checkpoint surrounded by 11 Interior Ministry vehicles and then blocked by more vehicles from behind.

''They opened the car doors and kidnapped the guards. Some others drove the deputy minister's car away. They took them to a house in an unknown location,'' the aide said.

He said the motive for the kidnapping appeared to be financial rather than political. Harith is a Shi'ite, although he is not tied to any of the Shi'ite parties in government.

''One of the guards managed to untie his hands and untied all the rest. They then sneaked outside and beat up the two guards before escaping,'' the aide said.

''We now know the location of the house, but we will not reveal it so the genuine security forces can raid the house,'' he added.


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