BAGHDAD — The American Embassy is working with the Iraqi authorities to locate three American citizens who have gone missing in the capital, an embassy spokesman said late Sunday. Their disappearance raised fears that Westerners were once again becoming targets for the myriad militias and criminal gangs that are known to kidnap foreigners for money or for political reasons.
The spokesman for the embassy in Baghdad read from a statement issued by John Kirby, a State Department spokesman in Washington: “We are aware of reports that American citizens are missing in Iraq. The safety and security of American citizens overseas is our highest priority. We are working with the full cooperation of the Iraqi authorities to locate and recover the individuals. Due to privacy considerations, I have nothing further.”
In the years after the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, kidnappings of Americans and other Westerners were common, but the practice had largely stopped in recent years. Often, Shiite militias backed by Iran were the culprits, and two recent high-profile kidnappings in Iraq are widely believed to be the work of militias with ties to Iran.
Last year, 17 Turkish construction workers were kidnapped in Baghdad and later released. And in mid-December, at least 26 Qataris, reportedly including members of the Qatari royal family, were abducted by militantswhile hunting rare birds in the southern desert of Iraq. They are still being held.