A desperate hunt is underway for three Americans civilians, who were reportedly kidnapped this weekend by men many believe connected to terrorists in Baghdad.
Iraqi security forces have fanned out across Baghdad neighborhoods Monday morning looking for the three United States citizens, closing streets and conducting house-to-house searches.
An Iraqi government intelligence official told the Associated Press the Americans were kidnapped from their interpreter’s home in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora. The kidnapping occurred, the official said, after the Americans were invited into the home of their interpreter. The individuals were then taken to Sadr City, the official said, where communication was lost.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief the press.
A local policeman in Dora said the individuals were taken from their car on Saturday along a highway in southwest Dora while driving to Baghdad International Airport. The two differing accounts of the events could not immediately be reconciled. The policeman spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief the press.
The U.S. Embassy confirmed Sunday that “several” Americans have gone missing in Iraq, after local media reported that three Americans had been kidnapped in the Iraqi capital.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Scott Bolz said, “We are working in full cooperation with Iraqi authorities to locate the missing Americans.”
Bolz did not identify the missing Americans or say what they were doing in Iraq.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said that “due to privacy considerations” he had nothing further to add about the missing Americans. “The safety and security of Americans abroad is our highest priority,” Kirby said.
Col. Steve Warren, the Baghdad based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group, confirmed that the individuals were civilians.
The comments by U.S. officials came after the Arab news channel, al-Arabiya, citing its own sources, reported that three Americans had been kidnapped by militias in Baghdad.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility.
In the past, many kidnappings in Iraq have been carried out by the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda.
Following the ISIS takeover of Iraq’s second largest city Mosul and large swaths of territory in the country’s north and west, Iraq has witnessed a deterioration in security as government forces were sent to front lines and Shiite militias were empowered to aid in the fight following the collapse of the Iraqi military.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.