- Associated Press - Friday, July 24, 2020

BAGHDAD (AP) - A German arts curator abducted earlier this week in Iraq was freed on Friday in a raid by Iraqi security forces near the capital, Baghdad, officials said.

Hella Mewis was freed in an early morning operation southeast of Baghdad, when security forces raided a location based on intelligence they had obtained regarding her whereabouts, a security official said.

Another security official said she had been found blindfolded. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give press statements.

Iraq’s Interior Ministry personnel, intelligence officials and police had worked to free Mewis by monitoring surveillance footage, among other methods, a statement from the ministry said.

Brig. Khaled Al-Muhanna, a spokesman for the ministry, said Mewis’ abductors have not been arrested. An investigation is underway to bring the perpetrators to justice.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Mewis was handed over to the German Embassy in Baghdad. He said he was “very relieved” that Mewis is free and thanked the Iraqi authorities “who supported us comprehensively during this time and contributed decisively to this case ending well.”

Mewis was reported missing by friends and activists on Tuesday. Security officials said she was kidnapped outside the Baghdad arts center where she worked. There was no claim of responsibility for the abduction and officials did not mention whether any ransom had been demanded.

Mewis is well known on the art scene in Iraq and is an ardent supporter of mass anti-government protests. She is a beloved figure in Baghdad, where she has resided for seven years and runs an arts program for young Iraqis. She was often seen on her bicycle zipping along the bustling Karada Street, an unusual sight in a city where foreigners are often cautious of the unpredictable security situation.

Her abduction - two weeks after the killing of prominent Iraqi researcher and commentator Hisham al-Hashimi by unknown gunmen - prompted alarm among Iraqi activists and other foreigners living in the country.

Elsewhere in Iraq, four rockets landed on Basmaya military base south of Baghdad later on Friday, causing minor damage, the military said. The attack came a day before Spanish coalition troops were scheduled to withdraw from the base.

A preliminary investigation found the rockets were launched from nearby Diyala province. Rocket and mortar attacks have targeted coalition forces and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in recent weeks. The U.S. has blamed Iran-backed militia groups.

There was no claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack.


Associated Press writers Samya Kullab in Baghdad and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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