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Dozens of Iraqi security workers kidnapped Print
Police discover 18 bodies strangled in Baghdad
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Armed men wearing police commando uniforms seized about 50 guards and employees at an Iraqi private security company Wednesday in Baghdad, Iraqi police said.


The 25 gunmen stormed the Rawafed security firm in the Zayuna district during a two-hour raid.

Three security guards who escaped told police that the men also took money and documents.

The kidnappers left in 10 to 15 vehicles, police said.

Zayuna is a fairly well-to-do neighborhood with a mixed population of Sunnis, Shiites and Christians.

The raid followed a gruesome discovery Tuesday night in western Baghdad.

Police found the bodies of 18 men who had been strangled and with their hands tied behind their backs, an official with the Baghdad Emergency Police said Wednesday.

The bodies were discovered in a Kia minibus in the Amiriya neighborhood, the official said.

The men were of various ages and could not be immediately identified.

Baghdad police also said six other bodies were found in the capital: five had been shot and one had been beheaded.

Similar discoveries -- most in Baghdad -- over the past few months have helped to fuel worries over the possibility of civil war between Shiite and Sunni Arabs.

However, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, while criticizing media coverage of the war Tuesday, told reporters at the Pentagon he didn't think there was a civil war in Iraq.

"They want just the opposite," Rumsfeld said of the Iraqi people. "And they've demonstrated the courage to show that they want just the opposite."

Rumsfeld slammed reporters, saying many of the stories following recent sectarian violence were exaggerated.

Since the February 22 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, news reports have cited the fears of Iraqi and U.S. officials that the security situation could spiral out of control into communal warfare.

"It isn't as though there simply have been a series of random errors on both sides of issues," Rumsfeld said. "On the contrary, the steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq."

The defense chief touted the Iraqi security forces, saying the army and police have shown leadership that "has to be seen as encouraging despite the apparent unwillingness of some to accept it."

Rumsfeld acknowledged that violence is slowing Iraq's progress and that militias pose problems for the government, but he said the number of attacks hadn't increased substantially.

"I think that these things go in bursts, and the burst has passed," he said. "And it's been handled pretty well. And there will be another burst at some point down the road, simply because that's the nature of that part of the world and the situation."

 
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