Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Gunmen seize Iraqi Olympic chief

CONFERENCE RAIDED Two security guards died when the head of Iraq's Olympic committee was kidnapped yesterday, along with a number of other sports officials


Gunmen kidnapped the head of Iraq's Olympic committee and more than a dozen employees yesterday after storming a meeting of sports officials just days after the coach of Iraq's national wrestling team was killed.

The gunmen, wearing Iraqi police uniforms, used at least ten vehicles for the kidnapping, police officials said. After entering the room where a meeting was taking place, gunmen demanded everyone stand and face the wall.

The building guards were not taken, but the kidnappers blindfolded and handcuffed all the people in the room, police said.

Police Lieutenant Thaer Mahmoud said Ahmed al-Hijiya, president of the committee, was taken along with other employees as they attended a conference in Baghdad.

Others seized included the deputy head of the Olympic committee, Ammar Jabbar al-Saadi; the chairman of the Taekwondo Federation, Jamal Abdul-Karim; and the chief of the Boxing Federation, Union Bashar Mustafa.

It's unclear how many people were kidnapped in all, but several estimates all put the number of people taken around dozens.

Security guards outside the meeting did not interfere because they thought the kidnappers were legitimate law enforcement, police said. Two guards were killed, one while trying to flee the building; the other was shot dead and dumped on a street in Karradah.

The kidnappings of Iraq's Olympic officials came a day after Iraq's national wrestling team pulled out of a tournament in the United Arab Emirates when its coach was killed in Baghdad.

The Sunni coach, Mohammed Karim Abid Sahib, was seized with one of his wrestlers as they left the sports center to buy some sweets in the northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah, where the team was preparing for the tournament.

He was shot dead while trying to escape; the other wrestler got away, according to police and wrestling officials.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told reporters that the men were kidnapped by "gangs" and not security forces.

Asked about the kidnapping Major General Adnan Thabet, commander of the ministry's special forces said, "There are some sides that don't want him to head the committee."

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