Four foreign aid workers kidnapped in Iraq

BAGHDAD - Four Western aid workers, two believed to be from Canada, one from Britain and one from the United States, have been kidnapped in Iraq, the organisation they were working for said.

The British and US embassies in Baghdad both said they were investigating reports that their nationals had gone missing. There is no Canadian representative in Iraq.

"We are aware of the report ... and are investigating as a matter of urgency," a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Baghdad said, a message echoed by a British embassy spokeswoman.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman in London named the missing Briton as Norman Kember, from northwest London.

She said British officials were "urgently investigating" reports that Kember had been kidnapped, but had no more details.

Kember was representing a number of aid groups in Iraq, the BBC quoted his wife, Pat, as saying.

"People are being very, very good to me and I am being supported," she said.The humanitarian workers are thought to have been snatched from a violent neighbourhood of western Baghdad on Saturday.

A representative of their group in Baghdad, who refused to be named, said they had received no word on their condition and had no information on the group that had seized them.

It is the first kidnapping of foreigners in Baghdad since an Irish journalist on an assignment in Iraq was kidnapped in October. The journalist, Rory Carroll, was released unharmed after 36 hours.

Earlier this year and during last year, there was a spate of abductions of foreigners by insurgents looking to put pressure on foreign forces in Iraq.

More than 100 foreigners were seized in all, and dozens of them were executed by their kidnappers, who placed videos of some of the executions on the internet.

Over the same period, hundreds of Iraqis have been kidnapped by criminal gangs and militants, either for ransom or to put pressure on the Iraqi government as it tries to face down a violent insurgency.

- REUTERS

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