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Iraqis accused in kidnapping plot

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Local police are holding four Iraqis accused of plotting to kidnap two U.S. officials inside the Green Zone, a heavily fortified area that houses the U.S. Embassy.

The previously undisclosed arrests early this month, investigated by Baghdad’s Major Crimes Unit, are the first plot uncovered to kidnap U.S. officials inside the Green Zone, say Baghdad police and Steven Casteel, the senior U.S. adviser to the Interior Ministry. The plan was hatched by Iraqis inside the Green Zone, including an Iraqi translator who worked closely with a U.S. security official, one of the two kidnapping targets, according to investigative reports and interviews this week with police. The other target was the official’s female assistant.

Two other suspects were employed by a Western company with offices in the Green Zone. A fourth suspect was recruited because of his links to Fallujah, an insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad. At least one other suspect is being sought, police said.

According to the police report, the group planned to grab the first hostage in early September. After a meeting in a cafe in the Green Zone, the translator would lure the official outside where he would be incapacitated with a toxic gas. The group planned to load him into a car trunk and drive to Fallujah. His assistant would be seized later.

The hostages were to be sold to militant groups in Fallujah and Baqouba, according to the report.