Frenchman target of latest Iraq kidnapping

5th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 5 (AFP) - The French foreign ministry on Monday confirmed that a French national working for a non-governmental organisation is missing in Iraq.

PARIS, Dec 5 (AFP) - The French foreign ministry on Monday confirmed that a French national working for a non-governmental organisation is missing in Iraq.

The ministry named the man as Bernard Planche and said he worked for an organisation called AACCESS "in the social and economic sector."

Earlier Iraqi police reported that a French engineer was kidnapped Monday morning from a wealthy west Baghdad neighborhood.

"Our embassy in Baghdad has been mobilised and is in close contact with the Iraqi authorities to obtain the release of our compatriot," the ministry said.

The kidnapping brings to six the number of Westerners abducted over the past week in a resurgence of hostage-taking. The abduction comes amid a surge of appeals by international figures for the hostages to be released amid a fresh spike in violence as war-torn Iraq heads towards a crunch general election on December 15.

According to police, four armed militants, including a woman, broke into his house in the Mansour neighborhood around 9:20am and dragged him out. When the man refused to enter the car he was pistol whipped.

A nearby policeman saw the event and opened fire. The gunmen returned fire and fled with their hostage. The policeman said blood was visible on the doorstep.

Just a day earlier, one of the most prominent US Muslim organizations, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, became the latest group to demand the release of the four Western Christian peace activists kidnapped last week.

The two Canadians, one Briton and an American, are linked to the US and Canada-based Christian Peacemaker Teams opposed to the continued presence of US-led foreign troops in Iraq.

"Those who left the comfort of their homes to advocate for the rights of others that do not share their faith, ethnicity or language should be celebrated and honored by Muslims, not humiliated by being made captives or, God forbid, killed," said Parvez Ahmed, the organization's chairman.

"This is a universal human ideal and a cherished principle of Islam."

On Sunday, Christian Peacemakers said the families of the four hostages had filmed video messages to their captors asking for their freedom.

"Please release him," pleaded the mother of Canadian hostage James Loney.

"My father made a choice to travel to Iraq and listen to those who are not heard. He meets with families who are missing loved ones. He has spent most of his time in Iraq trying to free detainees," said the daughter of American, Tom Fox.

Concern was also rising for a 43-year-old German woman, Susanne Osthoff, who was snatched in northern Iraq, three days after a kidnappers' reported demand for Germany to stop training local police or she would be killed, passed.

Newly sworn-in German chancellor, Angela Merkel, facing her first major crisis, has appealed alongside other leading national figures for her release.

Under the headline "Set Her Free", Merkel called for the safe return of the Muslim convert who has been living in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul for several years.

She was kidnapped with her driver on November 25.

"The German government is doing everything it can to save the lives of Susanne Osthoff and her escort," Merkel wrote in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, leaders of Germany's Muslim and Jewish communities, opposition party chiefs and presidents of leading charity groups joined the appeal.

Monday's latest kidnapping came after a particularly violent day in Iraq, including an Iraqi army sweep through the town of Baquba that killed 20 insurgents and took 75 prisoners, the defense minister said Sunday.

The operation follows the ambush and killing of 19 Iraqi soldiers.

Former prime minister Iyad Allawi was ambushed by an avalanche of stones and shoes in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, leaving him decrying that he was the target of an assassination attempt.

Allawi, an MP for his own Iraqi National Accord (INA) party was in Najaf as part of his campaign for the country's December election.

A US soldier was also killed on Sunday when his patrol "struck an improvised explosive device in east Baghdad," the army announced Monday.

More than 2,125 US service personnel have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, according to Pentagon figures.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news


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