The Iraq correspondent of the British newspaper the Guardian was kidnapped by armed men in Baghdad on Wednesday, the newspaper and friends of the journalist said.
Rory Carroll, 33, was abducted after venturing out to talk to Iraqis about the trial of former president Saddam Hussein, colleagues here said. They said Iraqi assistants who were with him either escaped or were released.
Carroll, an Irish citizen, had broadcast a live report on Hussein's trial on the Romanian news channel Realitatea TV earlier Wednesday, according to news service reports. The station, which said it employed him on a freelance basis, said Carroll was seized after trying to learn what ordinary Iraqis thought of the trial.
It was unclear whether Carroll was abducted for political reasons or for ransom. Many foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq by insurgents who are opposed to U.S. military operations here. But as violence and unemployment have soared, kidnapping for ransom also has increased dramatically.
Insurgents in Iraq have kidnapped more than 220 foreigners and killed nearly 40, according to the Associated Press.
Carroll, who was named Northern Ireland's young journalist of the year in 1997, joined the Guardian's foreign staff in 1999 and worked for three years in Rome and three years in Johannesburg before moving to Baghdad about nine months ago.
His father, Joe Carroll, a former correspondent for the Irish Times newspaper in the United States, told BBC Radio Ulster that his son "knew we were worried" about his posting in Baghdad, "but he used to reassure us and say that it was not as dangerous as people outside think."
Reporters Without Borders, which monitors press freedom, said experience showed that action on a victim's behalf in the first few hours after kidnapping, such as significant statements of support, were vital for a victim's safety. "There are grounds for suspecting that tension linked to the start of Saddam Hussein's trial are having repercussions on the press," the group said in a statement.
Ireland is officially neutral in the war in Iraq, a position some officials hope could help win Carroll's early release. "It is very important that people out in Iraq, and maybe including those people responsible for this terrible abduction, understand that he is an Irish citizen, albeit working for a British newspaper," Britain's secretary for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, told RTE radio.
The Irish Labor Party's international affairs spokesman, Michael D. Higgins, called for Carroll's immediate release.