Iraqi Red Crescent closes Baghdad offices a day after mass kidnapping

The Iraqi Red Crescent closed all of its Baghdad branches until further notice Monday, a day after gunmen staged a brazen mass kidnapping at the agency's downtown office.

Some 30 employees and visitors were kidnapped Sunday, and 16 of those were released unharmed the same day, a Red Crescent spokesman said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

"We gave orders to our Baghdad staff to stop working till further notice. We renew our calls for the release of the kidnapped persons," said Mazin Abdellah, the Iraqi Red Crescent's secretary-general.

He added that the group's offices in other Iraqi provinces were fully operational Monday.

Police said the gunmen arrived at the Red Crescent office in five pickup trucks, but could not confirm the number of people kidnapped, reports AP.

The Red Crescent, which is part of the international Red Cross movement, has around 1,000 staff and some 200,000 volunteers in Iraq. It works closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which visits detainees and tries to provide food, water and medicine to Iraqis.

At least half a dozen mass kidnappings have been carried out in the Iraqi capital this year, possibly by armed groups linked to the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites.

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