At least three Americans were kidnapped by militants in southern Baghdad on Saturday, according to several American and Iraqi news outlets. An unnamed official of the city’s police force confirmed the group’s disappearance to The Washington Post on Sunday evening, but their precise identities, and why exactly they were kidnapped, were initially unclear:
Based on an initial investigation of the abduction, the Americans appear to have been seized by Shiite militiamen after their local Iraqi interpreter invited them to his home in the Dora neighborhood in southern Baghdad, the lieutenant colonel said.
The [unnamed police official] said that the group had been invited to the home of their Iraqi interpreter. But a resident of the apartment building where the Americans were reportedly seized said that they were taken from a second-story apartment that he described as well-known as a brothel. A police major general also said the apartment was a brothel, in a building of eight residents, he said. The resident said the apartment is subject to frequent raids by [the Iran-controlled paramilitary force] Asa’ib ah al-Haq, although typically the men found inside are simply told to leave.
The names of the missing individuals have not yet been released. A spokesman for Baghdad’s Joint Operations told the Post on Sunday that they were Iraqi nationals who had later obtained U.S. citizenship and worked at Baghdad International Airport as contractors; an “Iraqi security official” told CNN, by contrast, that “two of the contractors are dual Iraqi-American citizens and that the third is an American national.”
The Dora neighborhood where the men were reportedly kidnapped has been the site of violent sectarian conflict since the American occupation of Iraq in 2003, including the forced expulsion of non-Sunni Muslims between 2006 and 2007 by extremist Sunni militias.
The alleged kidnappings occurred on the same day that the government of Iran released four Iranian-American prisoners, including The Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian, who had been detained by Iran on charges of espionage for 545 days.