18 Iraqi gov’t workers kidnapped


BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP

An al-Qaida-linked Sunni group claimed Friday that it kidnapped 18 government workers and soldiers in retaliation for the alleged rape of a Sunni woman by members of the Shiite-dominated police force.

In Baghdad, a pair of car bombs killed at least 11 people in separate attacks across the city. The bigger occurred at a used car lot near the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City, killing 10 people, wounding 17 and setting several cars ablaze, police said.

The entire front of the bomb-rigged car was blown apart. Blood from the victims was smeared across the hoods of some surrounding cars.

The other blast was near a police patrol in southwest Baghdad, killing a policeman and wounding two civilians, police reported.

The claim by the Islamic State of Iraq was posted Friday on a Web site, accompanied by nine pictures showing up to 18 men. Seven were wearing Iraqi military uniforms, and all had their hands tied behind their backs.

“This blessed operation is a response to crimes carried out by those infidels in their fight against the Sunnis,” the statement said. “The latest of the crimes committed by these traitors was to rape our sister in religion.”

The group threatened to kill the hostages within 24 hours if the Iraqi government did not hand over officers accused in the rape case, and release all Sunni women held in Iraqi prisons.

Also Friday, reports emerged of fierce clashes earlier this week between al-Qaida and residents of the village of Amiriyat near Fallujah, 45 kilometers west of Baghdad. The area of Iraq’s western Anbar province has been a center for Sunni insurgents.