Director of CARE Iraq abducted in Baghdad
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Gunmen seized the head of CARE International’s operations in Iraq – a woman who has worked on behalf of Iraqis for three decades – as the British government on Tuesday weighed a politically volatile American request to transfer soldiers to dangerous areas near the capital.
Early today, CARE Australia, which coordinates the international agency’s Iraq operations, announced it had suspended operations because of the abduction, but it said staff would not be evacuated.
Elsewhere Tuesday, a mortar attack killed at least four Iraqi National Guard soldiers and wounded 80 at a base north of Baghdad. An American contractor also died when mortar shells crashed onto a U.S. base in the Iraqi capital. And three car bombs exploded in the northern city of Mosul, killing two Iraqi civilians and wounding three.
Margaret Hassan, who holds British, Irish and Iraqi citizenships and is married to an Iraqi, is among the most widely known humanitarian officials in the Middle East. She is also the most high-profile figure to fall victim to a wave of kidnappings sweeping Iraq in recent months.
The Arab television station Al-Jazeera broadcast a brief video showing Hassan, wearing a white blouse and appearing tense, sitting in a room with bare white walls. An editor at the station, based in Qatar, said the tape contained no audio. It did not identify what group was holding her and contained no demand for her release.
Hassan, who is in her early 60s, was kidnapped about 7:30 a.m. while being driven from her home to CARE’s office in a western neighborhood of the capital, a CARE employee said. The employee said the group did not employ armed guards.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Hassan’s husband, Tahseen Ali Hassan, said his wife was abducted near the CARE office.
“Two cars intercepted her from the front and back,” he said. “They attacked the car and pulled out the driver and a companion. Then they took the car to an unknown destination.”
He said his wife had not received threats and that the kidnappers had not contacted anyone with any demands. “Nothing like this happened before, because CARE is a humanitarian organization, and she has served the Iraqi people for 30 years,” he said.