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Police question Iraqi journalist freed by her abductors

By Sinan Salaheddin Associated Press

BAGHDAD – Police on Wednesday questioned an Iraqi journalist who was abducted last week from her Baghdad home, after she was released by her captors the previous night.

Details remain sketchy about the abduction of Afrah Shawqi al-Qaisi, a veteran journalist and a vocal critic of Iraq’s endemic corruption who is also an employee of the culture ministry. No group has claimed responsibility for snatching her.

Elsewhere, an Iraqi military helicopter crashed north of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing the four-member crew, while Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State group in Mosul said they have taken two more neighborhoods of the city from the militants.

The case of al-Qaisi has shaken Baghdad residents. The gunmen who abducted her on Dec. 26 had claimed they were members of the security forces and asked to search her home before snatching her. They also took gold, money, phones, laptops and her car.

“Thank God, I’m fine,” al-Qaisi told the local NRT satellite TV station shortly after her release. “They treated me well.”

Her sister, Nibras al-Qaisi, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Iraqi security forces had sealed off the area around the journalist’s home and were questioning her.

Iraq is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, who have been frequently targeted by militant groups since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Dozens of journalists have been killed while covering military operations.

In one of Afrah Shawqi al-Qaisi’s recent articles published in local media, she criticized an Interior Ministry officer who badly beat a school principal inside the school grounds, before the eyes of the teachers and students, for refusing to punish a student who had quarreled with the official’s daughter.

An Iraqi military officer said the deadly helicopter crash north of Baghdad was due to technical failure. An investigation is underway to determine what had caused the Russian-made Mi-35 helicopter to crash near the town of Beiji, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Baghdad, the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

In Mosul, government forces captured two neighborhoods – known as Wahda and Industrial – in the eastern part of the city. The troops resumed fighting militants last week, following a two-week lull forced by stiff IS resistance and bad weather.

Backed by the U.S.-led international coalition, Iraqi government troops and paramilitary forces launched the campaign in mid-October to dislodge IS from Mosul – Iraq’s second-largest city and the last major IS urban bastion in the country.

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