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Gunmen Masquerading as Police Kidnap 100 Iraqi Researchers


Police in Baghdad say gunmen have kidnapped at least 100 people from a research institute of Iraq's Higher Education Ministry.

The assailants were dressed in police commando uniforms and driving government vehicles when they arrived Tuesday at the institute in the Karradah district of central Baghdad. Scores of gunmen were involved in the kidnap raid. Police say they forced people into about 20 vehicles and drove off.

A short time later, Iraq's Higher Education Minister Abid Dhiyab suspended all classes at Baghdad's universities and complained that his requests for improved security had been ignored by the defense and interior ministries.

The minister says the mass kidnapping was a terrorist act, not another case of sectarian violence, since victims were rounded up regardless of their creed, ethnicity or rank in the government.

Meanwhile, in Ramadi, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, medical officials say at least 20 people were killed in overnight violence.

Near the town of Mandali, on the Iranian border, seven people were killed and two wounded when insurgents ambushed a bus.

The U.S. military said three suspected terrorists were killed in an air strike late Monday near the town of Yusifiya, south of Baghdad.

Earlier, Iraqi security officials reported that another U.S. air strike in a Shi'ite neighborhood (Shula) of Baghdad killed at least five people. The U.S. military has not commented about that attack.

On Monday, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East discussed the security situation with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. General John Abizaid is said to have reaffirmed President Bush's commitment to success in Iraq.

General Abizaid is the third top U.S. official to visit Iraq in recent weeks. His talks with government leaders followed Prime Minister Maliki'sd announcement, on Sunday, that he is reshuffling his Cabinet.

The U.S. administration's Iraq policy also is under close scrutiny at present, following a big election victory by the opposition Democratic Party. Many members of the new congressional majority support a phased U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters

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