150 kidnapped from Iraqi finance ministry, minister says

Story highlights

  • Iraqi Finance Minister says 150 staff and guards were taken from Baghdad office
  • Official blames a "militia force" and holds Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki responsible
  • Incident occurs amid the ill-health of the president, the conviction of the vice president

Iraq's Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi said Thursday that "a militia force" raided his house, headquarters and ministry in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people, and he holds the nation's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, responsible for their safety.

Members of the al-Essawi's staff and guards were among those kidnapped from the ministry Thursday, the finance minister said. He also said that his computers and documents were searched at his house and headquarters. He said the head of security was arrested Wednesday at a Baghdad checkpoint for unknown reasons and that now the compound has no security.

"My message to the prime minister, you are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people" al-Essawi said.

Al-Essawi, who has a large base of Sunni support, said he has tried to reach al-Maliki, a Shiite, with no success.

"With a crisis like this of a minister of a key ministry, it's logical for (al-Maliki) to call me and to ask me about what happened," al-Essawi said. "Do you want me to believe that al-Maliki does not know about this action?"

Neither Al-Maliki nor his spokesman could be reached for comment Thursday.

The finance minister called for the safe release of his staff and guards and for a no-confidence vote against al-Maliki in parliament.

"I demand the release of all detainees and I demand an apology of this illegal shameful act." al-Essawi said. "I demand from the Iraqi Parliament to activate a no-confidence vote against a government that does not respect its institutions and its sovereignty"

The kidnappings come as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani heads to Germany under the care of a specialized medical team for treatment, Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said. Talabani's office said the president is suffering from hardened arteries, but Othman said he had suffered a stroke.

The kidnappings also follow the troubles of Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who was sentenced to death in September, accused in the deaths of a lawyer and an army general. Al-Hashimi, who is also Sunni and now lives in Istanbul, denies the charges and maintains the accusations were politically motivated.

Read more: More than 2 dozen dead in Iraq violence