CBS Workers Seized; Car Bombers Target U.S.-Backed Sunnis

Smoke rises from dual car bombs in Baghdad that killed at least 14 people in an attack aimed at Sunni tribesmen fighting insurgents.
Smoke rises from dual car bombs in Baghdad that killed at least 14 people in an attack aimed at Sunni tribesmen fighting insurgents. (By Wathiq Khuzaie -- Getty Images)
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By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

BAGHDAD, Feb. 11 -- Two CBS News journalists have been kidnapped in the southern city of Basra and remain missing, Iraqi officials said Monday.

The journalists, a British citizen and an Iraqi, were taken from their hotel late Sunday night by about 20 armed men wearing the uniforms of Iraq's security services, according to Brig. Gen. Jalil Khahlaf, the provincial police chief. He said authorities did not know the condition of the journalists and had not been contacted by the kidnappers, whose identities were unknown.

"All efforts are underway to find them," CBS News said in a three-sentence statement. A network spokeswoman said she would not comment on the account given by Iraqi police and asked news outlets not to report the missing journalists' names or jobs.

In Baghdad, a pair of car bombers killed at least 14 people Monday in a coordinated attack on the U.S.-backed Awakening movement, made up of Sunni tribesmen who have turned against insurgents, Iraqi police said.

The assault, which left at least 45 people wounded, was the latest in a wave of killings aimed at the tribesmen and was one of the deadliest car bombing incidents in Baghdad in months.

The target appeared to be the headquarters of Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, a leader of the Awakening movement.

In an interview an hour after the blasts, Suleiman said he was enraged that the U.S. military was not doing more to protect the Awakening fighters. The explosion, which destroyed much of his compound, killed or injured several of Suleiman's guards but left him with only minor wounds from flying glass.

"Where is the support of the Americans for us? They put us in this dilemma and now they are doing nothing for us," said Suleiman, who is also prince of the Dulaimis, one of the largest tribes in Iraq. "If they don't do something about this, then we may decide to withdraw our forces from the streets."

"Tell Bush: Great work," he added sarcastically.

Suleiman said a suicide bomber speeding down the street exploded a car near a guard station in front of his compound, killing primarily his own security team. That blast was set off shortly before noon. A second bomb, which exploded four minutes later, detonated a few hundred yards away near a gas station.

Meanwhile, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament warned that the political wrangling holding up passage of this year's budget could have serious consequences.

"If the parliament goes on in this manner, then its usefulness will be doubted," said the speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who is a Sunni. "This might lead to the whole collapse of the state."

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