All three were employees of Gulf Services Co., a construction firm based in the United Arab Emirates. They lived in a walled off two-story house in the al-Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad which houses numerous embassies and where many multinational companies have their headquarters.
About 10 assailants pulled up on the tree-lined street in a minivan and seized the men without firing a shot, Interior Ministry official Adnan Abdul-Rahman said. A car was also missing from the house, he added.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy identified the Americans as Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong but gave no ages or hometowns. Britain’s foreign office did not name the third hostage, saying it was identifying the person’s next of kin.
According to the Associated Press, a neighbor who gave his name as Majid said he left his house around 6 a.m. during a power outage to switch on a generator.
“I noticed unusual movement in the garage. I heard voices that sounded like someone was trying to drag somebody else,” he said. “I was frightened and left the area, but when I came back to the foreigners’ house I saw that the outer gate was open and the foreigners’ car had gone.”
Another witness, 19-year-old Ziad Tareq, said he was walking down the street when he saw a man dressed in black, his face covered with a red scarf, dragging one of the hostages by the collar and pushing him into a car parked outside the house, reported the AP.
Fighters waging a 17-month insurgency have kidnapped more than 100 foreigners to undermine Iraq’s interim government and force foreign troops to leave the country.
Continued insecurity in Iraq has curtailed the movements of foreigners in the war-torn nation. Foreign businesses, aid groups and news organizations have hired armed guards in bulletproof vests and built blast walls around their compounds to protect against the daily onslaught of mortars, car bombs and other violence. Security checkpoints have increased in the capital and many roads have been blocked off, frustrating drivers with gridlock.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Humvee hit a roadside bomb south of the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, the military said in a statement. There was no immediate word of casualties.
Thursday’s abductions were reported a day after villagers found three decapitated bodies in the town of Dijiel, 25 miles north of Baghdad. The bodies were found in nylon bags, the heads in bags alongside them, Abdul-Rahman said. No documents were found on them.
A U.S. military official said the bodies appeared to be Iraqis, unusual as Iraqis generally have been abducted for ransom but not executed.
Later in the day, Iraqi police announced they had discovered another body of a man suspected of being a westerner in the central Iraqi city of Samarra. The condition of the corpse reportedly indicated the victim had been dead for some time.
Two female Italian aid workers and two Iraqis were kidnapped last week, along with two French journalists on Aug. 20.