by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 16, 2016
Three Americans who were kidnapped in the Iraqi capital Baghdad last month have been released, the State Department said Tuesday.
"We sincerely appreciate the assistance provided by the government of Iraq, and its whole-of-government effort to bring about the safe release of these individuals," deputy spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
Toner specifically thanked Iraq's security forces, defense ministry and intelligence service for their role in securing the Americans' release.
The identities and employment of the victims was not made public.
"A force belonging to the intelligence service was able to free the three kidnapped Americans," a senior Iraqi intelligence officer told AFP, without providing details on which group had held them.
Kidnappers have recently seized Qataris and Turks, but it has been years since Americans were abducted, and Iraqis have suffered the most from kidnappers seeking ransoms or to settle scores.
A spokesman for the security command responsible for the capital said last month the Americans had been kidnapped from a "suspicious apartment" in Baghdad.
An Iraqi police colonel told AFP on condition of anonymity that the Americans had been brought to the apartment for "drinking and women."
Brothels and alcohol shops have been repeatedly targeted by powerful Shiite militia groups that are playing a major role in combating the Islamic State jihadist group, which has overrun large parts of Iraq.
These groups, which fall under an umbrella organization known as the Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization units, have played a key role in the fight against IS fighters.
But they and their affiliates have also been accused of abuses including summary executions, kidnappings and destruction of property.
The US is leading a coalition of countries that have bombed thousands of IS targets in Iraq and Syria and which are providing training to Baghdad's forces.
IS also has ample motive to target Americans, but while it is able to carry out bombings in Baghdad, it does not have a major presence in the city.
Dozens of foreign nationals have been kidnapped in two incidents during the past few months.
In December, gunmen kidnapped more than two dozen Qataris who had come to southern Iraq to hunt. Their whereabouts are still unknown, as are the identities of their kidnappers.
It had been years since an American was kidnapped in Iraq.
Issa T. Salomi, an American of Iraqi origin, went missing in Baghdad in January 2010 and was later freed by Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a powerful Shiite group that is now one of the leading forces in the Hashed al-Shaabi.
Iraq military helicopter crashes, killing nine
"A military helicopter of the Mi-17 type crashed because of a technical problem," killing its crew of nine, two of them officers, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told AFP.
The Soviet-designed helicopter, which is intended for transport but can also be equipped with weapons, was en route from Iraq's main southern city of Basra to the city of Kut, southeast of Baghdad, Rasool said.
A Kut police captain said the crash occurred in an area east of the city.
Iraq has lost multiple helicopters to accidents and ground fire in recent years, while others have been damaged.
In October 2014, militants shot down a Bell 407 north of Baghdad, killing two crew, five days after an Mi-35 was shot down in the same area, while jihadists destroyed another helicopter on the ground earlier in the year.
An overloaded helicopter crashed after delivering aid to people besieged by the Islamic State jihadist group on Mount Sinjar in August 2014, killing its pilot and injuring passengers, including a member of parliament.
Lieutenant General Hassan Karim Khudayr was killed when a military helicopter crashed north of Baghdad before IS launched a sweeping offensive in June 2014, while Iraq also lost an Mi-17 to a sandstorm in July 2010, a crash that killed five.
Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century
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