BAGHDAD, Iraq – Gunmen kidnapped an American and at least three foreign colleagues from their office in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood Monday, unleashing a volley of rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifle fire on the building before dragging out their victims.

The brazen, late afternoon attack was the second kidnapping in six weeks in which Americans living or working in Baghdad’s wealthy Mansour neighborhood were targeted. Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley were held hostage for several days in September before their captors beheaded them. Kenneth Bigley, a British engineer abducted with Armstrong and Hensley, was beheaded later.

Also Monday, gunmen opened fire on a car carrying Baghdad province’s deputy governor, Hatim Kamil, to work, killing Kamil, Baghdad Gov. Ali al-Haidari said. Two of Kamil’s bodyguards were wounded, Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman said.

In Ramadi, a freelance cameraman working for Reuters news service was killed, apparently by a sniper, possibly a Marine, The New York Times reported.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Robert Callahan confirmed that an American was among the people taken hostage in Monday’s kidnapping. He declined to release the person’s name and said embassy officials were trying to determine what company worked out of the building.

The attack in Mansour occurred about 5:30 p.m. local time, at a time when Muslims have their iftar meal to break their daily fast during Ramadan. A fierce firefight broke out between the gunmen, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles, and the office’s security detail, according to the Arab television network Al-Arabiya.

During the gun battle, a security officer protecting the building and one of the gunmen were killed, Callahan said. Abdul-Rahman said that an Asian and two Arabs also were seized. The Associated Press reported that the American’s colleagues who were kidnapped are a Nepalese man and four Iraqis.

Al-Arabiya reported that a Saudi company was working out of the building. As of late Monday, no one had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and no demands had been made.

“The embassy is doing everything possible to investigate and see what we can do,” Callahan said.

The relentless pace of kidnappings and attacks plaguing postwar Iraq has been made worse by the fact that insurgents have been able to penetrate heavily patrolled neighborhoods like Mansour.

Insurgents also have vastly broadened their array of targets, unleashing attacks that suggest few living in Iraq today can consider themselves immune from the violence. On Saturday, insurgents targeted Al-Arabiya, a pan-Arab television network, with a suicide car bomb blast that gutted the network’s Baghdad bureau and killed seven people. At least 19 people were injured.

Insurgents also are believed to be holding captive Margaret Hassan, the director of Iraq operations for the CARE International humanitarian organization. Hassan’s kidnapping Oct. 19 stunned colleagues, in part because she has devoted most of the 30 years she has lived in Iraq to humanitarian work, and has spoken out against the U.N.-imposed sanctions placed on Iraq after the gulf war.

In all, 160 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq. At least 33 of the kidnap victims have been killed. Twelve of those held hostage have been Americans, and at least three of those victims have been murdered.

In most instances, insurgents have been using kidnap victims as leverage to put pressure on governments and companies assisting the U.S.-led coalition’s efforts to rebuild Iraq and restore security. Some of those companies have responded by pulling out. Along with the United States, Britain and Japan have recently rejected demands from kidnappers to withdraw troops.

In the latest execution, Japanese tourist Shosei Koda, 24, was beheaded by his kidnappers after his government refused to withdraw its 550 troops deployed in Iraq to assist in reconstruction projects. His decapitated body was found late last week on a road in the Iraqi capital, wrapped in an American flag.

Insurgents are also holding hostage a Polish woman kidnapped from her home in Baghdad on Wednesday evening. Teresa Borcz-Kalifa is married to an Iraqi and worked at the Polish Embassy in Baghdad during the 1990s. A militant group demanded Poland immediately withdraw its soldiers from Iraq, and the release of all Iraqi women prisoners from Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

Poland’s president, Alexander Kwasniewski, said his country would not give in to the demands of terrorists. Poland has 2,400 troops in Iraq and oversees about 6,000 troops from 15 countries. The contingent is based south of Baghdad, in the Wasit, Karbala and Babil provinces.


Also Monday, American artillery struck suspected insurgent positions in Fallujah, and residents reported to the Associated Press that new air and artillery attacks were happening there.

Iraqi officials were investigating the assassination of Kamil, whose car was rammed by the gunmen, who then opened fire. The militant group Ansar al Sunna claimed responsibility for the attack.

“This is the fate of whoever is aiding or supporting the crusaders against the Muslims and mujahedeen,” the group stated, according to a statement posted on an Islamic Web site.

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