Higher education minister Abed Dhiab Al Ujaili, a Sunni Arab member of the Shiite-led unity government, said that some 75 hostages remained in captivity after the raid by militiamen wearing police-style uniforms, 40 of them his ministry's staff.
"Those who were set free told us that a few of the hostages have been killed, while most of them were tortured," he said. "I'm very much concerned about their welfare," he said of the remaining hostages.
Ujaili's comments came as the sectarian violence in the capital showed no let-up.
Gunmen stormed a bakery in the mixed Zayuniyah neighborhood and killed nine Shiite workers in the latest in a spate of attacks by Sunni insurgents on a trade that has traditionally been carried out by the majority community.
Fifteen other civilians were killed in Iraq, including 10 in a spate of shootings in Baquba, north of the capital.
Ujaili said that he was stepping down from the government until it secures the release of all hostages and takes action against Shiite militias suspected of infiltrating the security forces to carry out kidnappings and murders.
"The police force should be investigated and should put the right people in the right place," he told the BBC.
When asked if he felt that there was currently no effective government in Iraq, the minister replied: "That's right, I feel, yeah, there is no effective government."
Embattled Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, on a visit to neighboring Turkey, promised steps in the next few days to rein in the violence.
"A package of measures to be enacted in the coming days is on the agenda in order to stop the blasts and the bombings," he told reporters through an interpreter. "We will not allow certain groups to be settling accounts between themselves," he said.
On Wednesday, government spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh had played down the mass abduction of higher education ministry staff and visitors, insisting that only 39 people had been abducted, of whom just two were still held captive.
The blow to the hard-won Sunni representation in Iraq's national unity government came as the United States, too, piled on the pressure for more effective action against the Shiite militias.
The top US commander in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, revealed that he had pressed Maliki to disband the militias "very soon," only a day before the mass kidnapping.
"He must disband the Shia militia," Abizaid told a Senate committee Wednesday, referring to the Iraqi prime minister.
Abizaid warned that US and Iraqi forces have four to six months to bring the levels of sectarian violence down before the conflict tips into all-out civil war.
A freed hostage and an eyewitness said that the carloads of militiamen who carried out Tuesday's mass abduction were wearing police uniforms.
The witness said that she saw gunmen in police commando uniforms handcuff the hostages. "They brought all the men into the parking lot, took their car keys, and loaded them in the cars and drove off," she said.
A university professor who was briefly kidnapped said that the gunmen first seized their captives' mobile telephones.
"They also stripped the [building's] guards of their weapons. After that they put us all in one place and started blindfolding us," before leading the hostages at gunpoint to waiting cars.
He said that the hostages were later bundled into a hall and questioned for a long time, before he was set free with a warning not to talk about his ordeal.
National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley confirmed that a formal review was underway of US Iraq policy. The review had been launched "fairly discreetly" several weeks ago, he said.
Senior State Department official David Satterfield said that the United States was ready "in principle" for direct talks with Iran on its role in Iraq.
"We are prepared, in principle, for a direct dialogue with Iran. The timing of that dialogue is one that we are considering," Satterfield told the Senate committee.
The US military announced that it lost four more troops in Iraq since Tuesday, bringing its losses since the 2003 invasion to 2,858.
The military also said that its forces have killed nine members of the Al Qaeda in Iraq group in a raid near the town of Yusifiyah, south of Baghdad.
Source : AFPGüncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16