Italian journalist seized in centre of Baghdad

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The Independent Online
KIDNAPPERS SEIZED an Italian journalist from the centre of Baghdad yesterday after they were apparently tipped off by refugees from Fallujah who she was interviewing.

Giuliana Sgrena, a journalist from il Manifesto newspaper, was taken just before 2pm by gunmen who opened fire as they kidnapped her. Ms Sgrena had gone to a camp of refugees whose tents are around a mosque that looks like an upended sky-blue bowl, close to the Tigris river in the grounds of al-Nahrain University.

She was originally going to be accompanied by Barbara Schiavulli, an Italian radio journalist. Ms Schiavulli received a call on Ms Sgrena's mobile as the kidnapping was going on. She said: "I couldn't hear anybody talking ... I heard people shooting" and the sound of people splashing through the rain."

Possibly Ms Sgrena was trying to run away through puddles from the overnight rain. The ambush had been well prepared. The kidnapping was almost certainly staged to demand a ransom and not for political motives, Baghdad has one of the most highly developed kidnap industries in the world.

The Italian aid workers, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, were seized from their office in central Baghdad on 7 September last year but were later released, amid widespread speculation that the government of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had paid the kidnappers $5m (pounds 2.8m).