updated 4/11/2005 5:37:44 PM ET 2005-04-11T21:37:44

A U.S. contractor was kidnapped Monday in the Baghdad area, the latest in a string of abductions that have forced many foreigners to work here under armed guard.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said the American contractor, who was working on a reconstruction project, had been abducted around noon. He refused to release an identity or other details but said the contractor’s family had been informed.

French journalists’ abductor held
In a small victory against a spate of kidnappings targeting foreigners, a Defense Ministry official said Monday that Iraqi security forces arrested a man who claimed responsibility for last year’s kidnapping of two French journalists. The hostages, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, were released in December after four months in captivity.

Iraqi army soldiers captured Amer Hussein Sheikhan in the Mahmoudiya area on April 4, the official said on condition of anonymity. No other details were available.

Romanian President Traian Basescu’s office also said three Romanian journalists kidnapped along with their guide nearly two weeks ago in Iraq were believed to be alive and authorities were optimistic they would return home. Spokeswoman Adriana Saftoiu offered no other information.

Ransom for Pakistani
At the same time, a group claiming to have kidnapped a Pakistani official in Iraq has demanded money for his release, a senior Pakistani government official said, without giving an amount. Malik Mohammed Javed, a deputy counselor at the Pakistani mission in Baghdad, went missing late Saturday after leaving home for prayers at a nearby mosque.

Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism but has refused to deploy peacekeepers and urges its citizens to avoid coming here.

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