Official: Americans kidnapped from Iraq interpreter's home
Last Updated Jan 18, 2016 9:30 AM EST
CBS BAGHDAD -- A group of Americans who went missing over the weekend in Iraq were kidnapped from their interpreter's home in Baghdad, according to an Iraqi government intelligence official.
The kidnapping occurred, the official said, after the Americans were invited into the home of their interpreter in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora. The individuals were then taken to Sadr city, the official said, "after (the kidnapping) all communications and contact stopped in Sadr city."
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief the press.
The U.S. Embassy confirmed Sunday that "several" Americans had gone missing in Iraq, after local media reported that three Americans had been kidnapped in the Iraqi capital.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Scott Bolz said, "We are working in full cooperation with Iraqi authorities to locate the missing Americans."
Bolz did not identify the missing Americans or say what they were doing in Iraq.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said that "due to privacy considerations" he had nothing further to add about the missing Americans. "The safety and security of Americans abroad is our highest priority," Kirby said.
Col. Steve Warren, the Baghdad based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), confirmed that the individuals were civilians.
The comments by U.S. officials came after the Arab news channel, al-Arabiya, citing its own sources, reported that three Americans had been kidnapped by militias in Baghdad.
The Washington Post cited an Iraqi police official and a resident of the building where the abduction took place as saying the three Americans -- whom the newspaper identified as two men and a woman of Iraqi origin -- were seized in a well-known brothel.
U.S. officials did not confirm the Post's sources claim that the apartment was used by sex workers.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility. Kidnappings in Iraq have been carried out by ISIS, Shiite militias and criminal gangs often demanding ransom payments or seeking to resolve workplace disputes.
A State Department source told CBS News that the U.S. embassy received threat information last week that an Iranian-backed Shiite militia group wanted to seize an American or an American contractor.
Officials in Washington had hoped the Iranian government would tell the militia group to hold off because of all the negotiations surrounding the prisoner swap that saw the release of five Americans. The State Department source said the fear was that one of the groups might have "gone off the reservation."
Following the ISIS takeover of Iraq's second largest city Mosul and large swaths of territory in the country's north and west, Iraq has witnessed a deterioration in security as government forces were sent to front lines and Shiite militias were empowered to aid in the fight following the collapse of the Iraqi military.
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