first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2“They took all the workers from the companies and nearby shops,” said Haidar Mohammed Eleibi, who works for the Swan Transportation Co. in the Salihiya area. He said his brother and a cousin were among those taken away, along with merchants, passers-by and even men selling tea and sandwiches. “They did not give any reason for it,” he said. “Police came afterward and did nothing.” Another transportation worker, Amjad Hameed, said 15 cars rushed into the area and the random seizures began. “We asked them why but nobody replied,” he said. The Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry, which oversees the police and has been accused of backing militias in sectarian violence, denied its forces were behind the attack. Mostly Shiites work in the area where the kidnappers struck. BAGHDAD, Iraq – Gunmen in police uniforms staged a brazen daylight raid on bus stations in central Baghdad on Monday, kidnapping at least 50 people, including travelers, merchants and vendors selling tea and sandwiches. The operation was a direct challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s efforts to restore security in the capital, which has been hard hit by suicide attacks, roadside bombs and sectarian death squads. Gunmen arrived at midmorning Monday and began randomly grabbing people in the shabby business district, where several transportation companies are based and buses pick up passengers bound mostly for Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohamedawi said. The attackers blocked the roads and beat people before putting bags on the captives’ heads and leading them to vehicles one-by-one, a witness told an Iraqi television station. They herded their victims into more than a dozen vehicles, according to witnesses and officials. Al-Mohamedawi and the ministry said at least 50 people were abducted. Monday’s kidnapping was the latest in a series of setbacks for al-Maliki. The Shiite prime minister has also been frustrated in his efforts to crack down on sectarian and militia violence in the oil-rich southern city of Basra, where attacks have been unabated despite his declaration of a state of emergency on Wednesday. And al-Maliki still has not been able to reach consensus among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian parties on candidates for interior and defense minister – posts he must fill to implement his ambitious plan to take control of Iraq’s security from U.S.-led forces within 18 months. Separately, a 30-year-old Iraqi man accused of helping the kidnappers of aid worker Margaret Hassan was sentenced to life in prison, while two other suspects were acquitted, a court official said. Hassan, 59, the director of CARE international in Iraq and a citizen of Britain, Ireland and Iraq, was abducted in Baghdad in October 2004. She was killed a month later. Her body has never been found.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more