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Six Egyptians kidnapped in Iraq

Violence continues during Allawi's U.S., U.N. visits


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The Egyptians were working for this subsidiary of an Egyptian-owned mobile phone company in Baghdad.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Gunmen have seized six Egyptian telecommunication workers, Iraqi officials say, the third in a series of kidnappings of foreigners in the Iraqi capital this month.

The six were abducted in two incidents -- four technicians Wednesday in a remote location near the Syrian border and two engineers from the company's Baghdad office late Thursday, said Naguib Sawiris, the president of Orascom, an Egyptian-owned cell phone company.

"Orascom Telecom Holding confirms the kidnap of two Egyptian engineers of its Iraqi operation, Mustafa Abdel Latif and Mahmoud Turk, in addition to four Egyptian technicians working for one of the company's subcontractors," a company statement said.

"The company has advised the Egyptian and Iraqi relevant authorities and is undertaking its utmost efforts to release its employees. The company did not receive any indication as to the identity of the kidnappers or their demands. The company will continue its efforts to release its employees, who are providing valuable services to the people of Iraq."

An Iraqi Interior Ministry official, Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman, said armed kidnappers tied up the guards outside the two engineers' office in western Baghdad, put the Egyptians in a black BMW and took them to an unknown location.

Last week, two Americans and a Briton were kidnapped at their home in Baghdad by armed men.

A group led by Jordanian militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi later beheaded the Americans, Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley, and posted video footage of the killings on the Internet.

The group says it will also kill Kenneth Bigley, 62, unless all Iraqi women are freed from U.S.-run jails.

U.S. officials say the only women held in Iraq are two "high-value detainees" at Camp Cropper near Baghdad airport. The interim Iraqi government says it has no imminent plans to release any detainees -- as have Washington officials.

Bigley's mother, Lil, who made a televised appeal for his kidnappers to "show mercy," was taken to a hospital in Liverpool shortly afterwards, feeling "unwell," police said.

The 86-year-old later returned home and Friday evening was awaiting news from Iraq with relatives. (Full story)

Since April, militant groups in Iraq have seized more than 100 foreign hostages. Most have been released, but about 30 have been killed.

Earlier this month, gunmen kidnapped two female Italian aid workers in broad daylight in Baghdad. (Full story)

The Italian government has urged caution on reports that the women have been killed, saying the claims are "unreliable" and part of a terror campaign being carried out through the media.

"We, therefore, urge the maximum caution, care and responsibility," the office of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said in a written statement.

Simona Torretta and Simona Pari, both 29, were working for a humanitarian group called Bridge to Baghdad when their office was raided by insurgents more than two weeks ago and they were taken hostage, police said.

Two separate groups claimed to have killed the women.

The Italian government has warned that reports of two Italian women being held captive in Iraq have been killed are "unreliable."

Ten Turkish employees of a construction company, Vinsan, are also being held hostage in Iraq. Video of the hostages was broadcast last weekend on the Arabic-language network al-Jazeera.

On Thursday Turkey's government said it was considering an alternative route for its truck drivers bringing goods into neighboring Iraq in an effort to stem kidnappings. (Full story)

Meanwhile, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is visiting the United States, trying to put an upbeat face on the future of his young government, besieged by the insurgency. (Full story)

Allawi is trying to drum up support for Iraq at the United Nations, where the General Assembly is meeting, and in Washington, where he addressed Congress and met with President Bush.

The interim prime minister has repeatedly vowed that the violence endured by Iraq will not deter the upcoming balloting.

However, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested Thursday that violence might cause parts of Iraq to be excluded from elections set for January. (Full story)

CNN's Robyn Curnow in Liverpool contributed to this report


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