Police stormed a farm north of Baghdad early Thursday and freed at least 17 people who were abducted a day earlier in a mass kidnapping of 64 workers and family members at the end of a factory shift.
Five U.S. troops — including four Marines — were killed in operations south and west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said, and an explosion of sectarian and revenge killings in Iraq’s third-largest city in the past three days claimed 24 lives.
Nine days into a security crackdown in Baghdad, meanwhile, insurgent and sectarian bloodletting was muted, with no major violence reported by midday.
A bomb planted on a motorcycle exploded near a popular market in central Baghdad’s Alawi district, killing two people and injuring 25 others.
A roadside bomb in Jibla, southwest of Kut, killed an Iraqi army soldier and a civilian. In Kut, police said they found six bullet-riddled bodies floating in the Tigris River.
The freed kidnap victims brought to 49 the number of captives who have been either released by their captors or liberated by police. About 30 of the hostages, mainly women and children, were released shortly after they were taken captive at the al-Nasr General Complex, a former military plant that now makes metal doors, windows and pipes. It is routine in Iraq for women to take their children to work.
Industry Minister Fowzi Hariri told state-run Iraqiya TV that 64 people were kidnapped as they were heading home and two people were killed when they resisted.
Victim pretended to be Sunni
One kidnap victim, a Shiite Muslim, said he was set free Wednesday night after showing the kidnappers a forged identity card listing him as a Sunni. The man, who refused to give his name because he feared retribution, said two hostages had been killed trying to escape.
“As we were leaving the factory, we were stopped by gunmen. The got on our buses and told us to put our heads down. Then they took us to a poultry farm,” the man said.
“One of the gunmen told us to stand in one line and then asked the Sunnis to get out of the line. That’s what I did. They asked me to prove that I am a Sunni, so I showed the forged ID and three others did the same. They released us,” the man said.
A National Security Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, told The Associated Press that several insurgents holding the kidnap victims were captured during the morning raid on the farm in the Mishada area, 20 miles north of the capital.
Police operations in the area were continuing in the area, the official said, in a bid to locate the rest of the victims who were taken at the end of the day shift.
Sectarian violence has raged in the region, with kidnappings and revenge killings commonplace, but nothing had been reported on the scale of Wednesday’s mass abduction.
The al-Nasr plant is between Baghdad and Taji, a predominantly Sunni Arab area.
The U.S. military said the four Marines were killed Tuesday in insurgency-ridden Anbar province, three of them in a roadside bombing and a fourth in a separate operation. A soldier died Wednesday south of the capital, the military said, giving no other details.
At least 2,512 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians.
The killings in Mosul occurred primarily in groups of ones and two, with several of the dead found dumped throughout the city. All the victims died in targeted shooting attacks, Mosul police Capt. Ahmed Khalil told the AP.
About a dozen people were killed in other violence nationwide Wednesday, and an al-Qaida-led insurgent group said it would execute four Russian hostages who were kidnapped June 3. The Russian Embassy in Baghdad said it had no new information on the fate of the four. A fifth Russian was killed when the men were captured.