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Turkish Workers Abducted in Baghdad

BAGHDAD — In the early morning darkness on Wednesday, masked gunmen in military uniforms rolled up in more than a dozen black sport utility vehicles to a construction site on the edge of Baghdad, subdued the guards and roused 17 Turkish workers and their Iraqi translator from sleep and kidnapped them.

Iraqi security officials spent the day scrambling to find the men, who were building a soccer stadium near Sadr City, a vast and impoverished Shiite neighborhood, but by nightfall there was no word on where they were being held or who had abducted them.

The incident evoked the memory of last summer when Islamic State militants seized dozens of Turkish diplomats in the northern city of Mosul, but in Wednesday’s case it was far more likely that the abductions were the work of a criminal gang or a militia seeking ransom, officials said.

The Sunni militants of the Islamic State frequently carry out car bombings and, sometimes, assassinations inside Baghdad, but are not seen as capable of carrying out an operation like Wednesday’s in the heart of a Shiite enclave of Baghdad. But kidnap-for-ransom schemes carried out by bands of criminals and Shiite militias are common in the capital. One avenue being explored by officials is that Wednesday’s kidnappings were related to a land dispute over the stadium project, because some local residents – including wealthy ones – were forced by the Iraqi government to give up their properties.

Turkish officials in Ankara, the Turkish capital, and officials here gave brief statements confirming the kidnappings and said that the two countries were working closely to resolve the matter. Nurol Holding, the Turkish construction company that employed the workers, also gave a brief statement, saying the abduction was carried out at about 3 a.m.

On Wednesday afternoon, the police guarding the site said they had no information. A plainclothes intelligence agent on the scene, who had a pistol in his waistband and said he was working for the office of the prime minister, had arrived hoping to find the passports of the abducted workers but was told by the police officers that they were not there.

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(via NY Times)