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Mass Kidnapping Highlights Difficulty of Daily Life in Iraq

Gunmen in police uniforms staged a mass kidnapping in Baghdad Tuesday. State television later reported that most people had been released. Experts discuss how Iraqis manage to live with the risk of violence.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    First tonight, our look at daily life in Iraq, life marked by daily kidnappings and thousands of killings every month. How do Iraqis cope with living with such violence? We begin with a report about today's events, narrated by Nick Paton Walsh of Independent Television News. He filed earlier today before word came that most of the hostages had been released.

  • NICK PATON WALSH, ITV News Correspondent:

    No one to call for help this morning in Baghdad. As violence spiked across Iraq, leaving at least 82 people dead, hundreds of workers at the Ministry for Higher Education were rushed by men in police uniforms. The women herded into one room, their mobile phones confiscated. The men route-marched outside.

  • BAGHDAD INHABITANT (through translator):

    The staff was having their breakfast when they stormed the building. They didn't come through the doors; they seemed to come out of the walls.

  • NICK PATON WALSH:

    In the car park, eyewitnesses described how the rituals of sectarian hatred began. The kidnappers, who had sped unimpeded to the ministry in as many as 20 pickup trucks used by the police, began checking the men's identity cards. A confused picture emerged, but it appears some Shiite men were released and as many as 150 Sunnis driven away.

  • BAGHDAD INHABITANT (through translator):

    They even took a 60-year old man and put him in the trunk of a car. They also took three of our cars, a pickup truck, a BMW, and a government-owned vehicle.

  • NICK PATON WALSH:

    Grief enveloping this latest horror to hit Iraq's schools. A hundred academics killed in the past three years by sectarian militia or even disgruntled students.

    Shock turned to disbelief as the news broke that five senior police officers were arrested hours later in connection to this, perhaps the worst mass abduction yet in the capital. Parliament met with the fear that the police, the country's future guardians, may be driving its descent into civil war.

  • BAGHDAD SPOKESMAN (through translator):

    They arrested, or rather kidnapped, all the men they found there. They kidnapped deputy directors, all employees, assistants and cleaners, leaving nobody behind.

  • NICK PATON WALSH:

    These 56 bodies found 11 days ago, together with a severed head in Baghdad, dawn's grim tidings in a capital where ethnic cleansing and territorial disputes have made abduction, torture and execution the norm. On Sunday, another 75 bodies found, and 10 more in a Baghdad house this morning.

    A U.S. military raid in the town of Ramadi, targeting Shiite militia, killed at least 30 on a day of bloodshed so widespread it became hard to keep track of; at least 17 separate incidents filling Iraq's beleaguered hospitals. A car bomb in Baghdad killed 10. Another in the capital's Shiite area of Sadr City killed at least seven.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Jeffrey Brown takes it from there. This conversation was also recorded before the latest reports that most of the hostages had been released.

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