11 Russians taken hostages in Iraq

When on Monday evening 11 Russians were taken hostages a clash took place in Baghdad and two Iraqi guards killed, the US Fox TV channel has reported. The exact place of the incident and the circumstances of the hostage taking are not known.

The Washington Post quotes Iraqis living in the Zayuna district in the eastern part of the capital as saying that the kidnapped Russians lived in a house in that district.

According to the Egyptian news agency MENA, the kidnapped were taken in an unknown direction and the demands of the abductors are so far not known. The two Iraqi guards who tried to prevent the abduction were killed.

The hostages are employees of Interrosenergo, MENA reports. Earlier the Qatari satellite TV Channel Al Jazeera said they worked for Interenergoservis.

The Russian Embassy in Baghdad has declined to comment on the hostage taking. The duty attendant said the situation would probably get clear on Tuesday.

Head of the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow Isham Al-Islam called on the abductors to immediately release the Russian hostages.

When speaking at the Arab satellite TV channel Al Arabia, he emphasized that the Russian specialists had come to Iraq to help it restore the country's energy sector, and that Russia was not among the countries that supported the war in Iraq.

According to the Fox TV, over the last few days rebels in Baghdad and other cities have taken hostages over 40 people from 13 countries including the USA, Japan, China, Turkey, Pakistan and Israel.

19 foreign hostages were released on Monday after negotiations with the rebels.

Nine Russian experts, who came to Iraq a week ago under a contract with the Russian Interenergoservis company, have been kidnapped in Iraq.

They were kidnapped yesterday at about 7 p.m. Moscow time in north-eastern Baghdad, according to the company.

The company reports that a two-storied residential building houses 23 adjusters who are engaged in three facilities for the restoration and reconstruction of a thermal power station near Baghdad. When 15 to 20 gunmen in masks broke into the house, there were 12 men in there. Three of them managed to escape.

The specialists were taken away in a minibus and a car.

One of them was released later.

The Russian embassy in Baghdad is looking into the incident.

"The Russian embassy is doing everything to find out what has happened and have the Russian specialists released," said Alexander Yakovenko, an official Russian foreign ministry spokesman.

"The foreign ministry recommends that Russian residents should not visit Iraq for the time being as the situation has aggravated dramatically there," said Mr Yakovenko.

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