Baghdad: Three U.S. citizens who disappeared last week in Baghdad were kidnapped and are being held by an Iranian-backed Shi`ite militia, two Iraqi intelligence and two U.S. government sources said on Tuesday.
Unknown gunmen seized the three on Friday from a private residence in the southeastern Dora district of Baghdad, Iraqi officials say. They are the first Americans to be abducted in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.
The U.S. sources said Washington had no reason to believe Tehran was involved in the kidnapping and did not believe the trio were being held in Iran, which borders Iraq.
"They were abducted because they are Americans, not for personal or financial reasons," one of the Iraqi sources in Baghdad said.
The three men are employed by a small company that is doing work for General Dynamics Corp, under a larger contract with the U.S. Army, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The Iraqi government has struggled to rein in the Shi`ite militias, many of which fought the U.S. military following the 2003 invasion and have previously been accused of killing and abducting American nationals.
Baghdad-based analyst Hisham al-Hashemi, who advises the government, said the kidnappings were meant to embarrass and weaken Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is trying to balance his country`s relations with rival powers Iran and the United States.
"The militias are resentful of the success of the army in Ramadi which was achieved with the support of the U.S.-led coalition and without their involvement," he said.