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Seven Chinese men kidnapped in Iraq
Updated: 2004-04-12 09:14

Seven Chinese were kidnapped by armed men in central Iraq on Sunday, a Chinese diplomat in Baghdad said.

The seven Chinese citizens entered Iraq via Jordan Sunday morning and were most probably abducted in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, the diplomat said.

The seven people, all male, were from east China's Fujian Province, according to a name list provided by the diplomat. The oldest is 49 years old and the youngest is 18.

Al Arabiya TV channel's Baghdad Bureau told Xinhua earlier thatits correspondent in Fallujah reported that seven Chinese had been kidnapped after he interviewed some foreigners released by kidnappers on Sunday.

The unidentified foreigners told the reporter that they met seven Asian persons with Chinese passports detained in a room in a secret location.

The Chinese were said to have been abducted on a highway from Iraq's northern city of Mosul to Fallujah, 50 km west of Baghdad.

The roads between Jordan border and the Iraqi capital have been closed by US forces besieging Fallujah for the "Operation Vigilant Resolve."

The captives were in good health and not handcuffed, but it remained unclear what the kidnappers will do with them, said the interviewed foreigners.

Insurgents in Iraq have claimed that they held a number of foreign citizens hostage in an effort to negotiate a cease-fire ora full withdrawal of occupying troops.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV has reported that a militant group called Mujahedeen Brigades held three Japanese hostage and threatened to kill them unless Japan withdraws its some 500 troopsfrom Iraq.

China, one of the five permanent members in the UN Security Council, is opposed to the military invasion of Iraq. It also refuses to send any troops to join the US-led coalition that occupies the war-ravaged country.

Sun Bigan, head of the team responsible for the re-establishment of the Chinese Embassy in Baghdad, told Xinhua that the list of the detainees has been presented to the interim Iraqi Interior Ministry and great efforts will be done to locate and rescue the seven civilians. But Sun did not disclose the identities of the seven.

The US-led coalition has suffered the biggest setback in Iraq since the end of major fighting last May as more than 700 Iraqis and dozens of coalition troops have been killed in the US retaliatory operation since last Monday.

About 2,000 US Marines and 1,000 reinforcements have surrounded the town of Fallujah for the sixth day to hunt down insurgents behind the killing of four American contract workers and mutilating of their bodies on March 31.

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