- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

BAGHDAD — Gunmen in police uniforms and driving vehicles similar to those used by security forces kidnapped five Britons from an Iraqi Finance Ministry office yesterday, and a senior Iraqi official said the radical Shi’ite Mahdi Army militia was suspected.

The U.S. military announced that 10 American soldiers were killed in roadside bombings and a helicopter crash on Memorial Day, making May the third deadliest month of the war, with 113 fatalities.

In the Finance Ministry attack, about 40 heavily armed men abducted the five Britons from an annex and sped away in a convoy of 19 four-wheel-drive vehicles toward Sadr City, the Mahdi Army stronghold not far away, according to the British Foreign Office in London and Iraqi officials in the Interior and Finance ministries.

Joe Gavaghan, a spokesman for Montreal-based security firm GardaWorld, confirmed that four of its security workers and one client were kidnapped. All four GardaWorld workers are British citizens, he said, declining to provide more details.

A spokesman for BearingPoint, a McLean, Va.-based management consulting firm, said one of the company’s employees, apparently the client mentioned by Mr. Gavaghan, was among those abducted.

“We have been informed that a BearingPoint employee working in Iraq was taken from a work site early this morning,” Steve Lunceford, the BearingPoint spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to the Associated Press.

BearingPoint has been working in Iraq since 2003 on a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded contract to support economic recovery and reform, Mr. Lunceford said.

A senior official in the Iraqi Interior Ministry confirmed the five were British and that Mahdi Army militiamen were thought responsible. The official would provide the information only on the condition that his name not be used.

Across Iraq yesterday, police and morgue officials contacted by the AP reported a total of at least 120 people killed or found dead. All of the officials refused to allow use of their names, fearing they could be targeted by militants.

Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said the abduction was carried out by men wearing police uniforms who showed up at the Finance Ministry data-collection facility in four-wheel-drive vehicles of the type used by police. Like the other officials, he said, the kidnappers sped off toward Sadr City.

Eight of the U.S. soldiers killed on Monday were from Task Force Lightning. Six were killed in an insurgent roadside bomb ambush as they raced to rescue the two others, who died in a helicopter crash. The military did not say whether the helicopter was shot down or had mechanical problems. All eight died in Diyala province north of the capital.

Two other American service members died Monday in a roadside bombing in southern Baghdad, the military said in a separate statement issued at Camp Victory in Baghdad.

Since the war began in March 2003, only two other months have recorded higher death tolls for U.S. troops: November 2004 with 137 deaths, and April 2004 with 135 fatalities.

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