Gunmen kidnap Italian journalist in Baghdad

GUNMEN kidnapped an Italian journalist in Baghdad yesterday, the latest in a series of brazen abductions but the first since Iraq’s election.

Giuliana Sgrena, a journalist with communist Rome newspaper Il Manifesto, was snatched from the street as she conducted interviews near Baghdad University. Gunmen pulled up alongside her vehicle, forced her driver and an Iraqi journalist out at gunpoint and drove off with Ms Sgrena, police sources said.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Italy was already working to negotiate her release and he was going to meet the interior and defence ministers later.

The kidnapping came just five days after Iraq held a historic election and amid evidence of a decline in militant attacks since the vote, when millions of Iraqis faced down insurgent threats to cast their ballots. It underlines how dangerous Iraq remains despite the presence of 170,000 US and foreign troops and more than 130,000 Iraqi security force personnel.

The US military also said one soldier was killed and seven were wounded by a roadside bomb near the northern town of Baiji. The US also announced it is to pull 15,000 troops out of Iraq, signalling the launch of a new, post-election phase.

Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said numbers would be reduced to 135,000.

“I think we’ll be able to come down to the level that was projected before this election,” he said.

Mr Wolfowitz told a Senate committee allied forces expect to have trained and equipped 200,000 Iraqi troops and police by October.

A colleague of Ms Sgrena’s, radio journalist Barbara Schiavulli, said she was speaking to Sgrena on the telephone as she was being abducted.

“Giuliana was my room mate. She called me an hour ago while they were taking her away. I heard the shots,” she said. “I started to shout ‘Giuliana, Giuliana’, but she didn’t answer.”

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