BAGHDAD - Most of the dozens of hostages seized at a Higher Education
Ministry building on Tuesday have been freed, the government said on Wednesday.
An official at the Prime
Minister's media office said around 40 hostages had been in the hands of the
kidnappers by Tuesday evening and "most of them have been released." He did not
give exact numbers or say how they were freed.
policeman stands guard outside the compound of the Higher Education
Ministry in Baghdad, November 14, 2006. [Reuters]
There were different reports on exactly how many men were seized from the
Higher Education Ministry building in central Baghdad in a brazen daylight raid
by gunmen in police uniforms. Around 20 were released within hours on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Higher Education Ministry reiterated on Wednesday his
minister's estimate on Tuesday that at least 100 had been taken, including male
employees and visitors.
"They beat us and insulted us and after that they freed us," the spokesman
quoted the assistant manager of the building, Yaha Alwan, as saying after he was
released on Tuesday afternoon.
Amid new suspicions of police complicity in the latest and biggest mass
kidnapping, the interior minister hauled in police chiefs to explain how dozens
of gunmen swept into the Higher Education Ministry annex, rounded up those
inside, and drove them off in broad daylight toward a Shi'ite militia
Al Furat, a TV station controlled by a major Shi'ite political group, said
early on Wednesday that 25 hostages were still missing.
Some of those released earlier in the day said they were
driven to Sadr City, a Shi'ite militia stronghold in eastern Baghdad, Higher
Education Minister Abd Dhiab said.