Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  

8 killed in Iraq attacks
American, 2 interpreters kidnapped

At least eight people were killed in insurgent and sectarian attacks in Iraq on Friday, including five when a series of mortars slammed into a Baghdad neighbourhood, a security official said.

Five people were killed and 15 wounded when four mortars fell into Zafaraniyah, a mixed Shia and Sunni neighbourhood in southern Baghdad, he said.

Two of the mortars fell into a commercial area in the neighbourhood, while two others hit some residential buildings.

In another attack northeast of Baghdad, three Iraqi army soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb blast.

Police Lieutenant Ali Ismail of Baquba -- the restive city northeast of Baghdad -- said the soldiers were killed when the bomb went off near their patrol.

The attack occurred near the Bala Druz area of the Diyala province, of which Baquba is the capital.

Earlier an American and his two Iraqi interpreters were kidnapped near the southern Iraqi city of Basra Friday, Basra police chief said.

"The three were kidnapped this morning from Al-Haritha area north of Basra," said Mohammed al-Mussawi.

Another police officer from Basra said the three were travelling in a black Opel car when three other cars full of gunmen "ambushed them and kidnapped them".

US embassy spokesman Louis Fintor in Baghdad said the embassy was "looking into these reports".

It was not immediately clear if the missing man was a security contractor.

Last month five Westerners -- four Americans and an Austrian -- were kidnapped from Basra and are still being held hostage.

The group of private security contractors was escorting a convoy in Safwan near Basra on behalf of Kuwaiti-based Crescent Security when the men were abducted by kidnappers wearing police uniforms.

The kidnappers released a video of the five earlier this week showing them to be in a healthy condition but asking for the release of all prisoners in American- and British-run prisons in Iraq.

Several Islamist and nationalist resistance groups operate in the country, along with illegal political militias, corrupt security force units and criminal gangs who kidnap hostages for ransom.