Malawi appeals for release of its national reported abducted in Iraq

The Malawi government expressed alarm Wednesday at reports that one of its nationals was abducted in Iraq and appealed for his release.

The unidentified Malawian engineer disappeared with a colleague from Madagascar when gunmen ambushed the convoy of a mobile phone firm in western Baghdad, the company said. At least six Iraqi security personnel were killed in the attack.

"It's a tragedy for Malawi," Information Minister Patricia Kaliati told The Associated Press. "He is a well-meaning professional out to offer his professionalism to the world."

Officials from the impoverished southern African country were trying to establish what happened, but were hampered by the lack of diplomatic ties between the two countries, she said.

Iraqna, a cell phone company owned by Egyptian-giant Orascom, said in a statement that its convoy was attacked at about 8 a.m. in Baghdad's Nafaq al-Shurta area and that the fate of the missing engineers was unknown. An Iraqna engineer, Ali Jamil, told AP that the two engineers were abducted as they were heading to a project in the Iraqi capital.

Although Malawi has no formal ties with Iraq, a number of its citizens have taken high-paying jobs there, particularly in the telecommunications and construction sectors.

A.M.