Confirmed: AP Photographer Kidnapped in Iraq

By: An Iraqi journalist working for The Associated Press has been missing for more than a week, and relatives and a witness say he was taken prisoner by masked gunmen while traveling to Baghdad.

Talal Mohammed, who contributed both news and photos to the AP, disappeared as he traveled from Baqouba, where he worked, to the Iraqi capital 35 miles to the southwest, according to members of his family. He went missing on July 28 and had not been heard from as of Tuesday.

Mohammed, 40, was with a neighborhood friend aboard a bus when both were kidnapped at an illegal checkpoint not far from Baqouba in a region that is a stronghold of Sunni Muslim fighters allied with al-Qaida in Iraq, said the relatives, who asked not to be identified for their own safety.

They said they got the information from Mohammed's traveling companion who was later released and also asked that his name not be used.

It was unclear whether Mohammed was seized because he worked for a Western news agency or for some other reason. Iraqi journalists working for local or international media frequently come under threats from insurgents because of their reporting, and more than 70 such journalists have been murdered since the war began in 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York.

Five AP employees have died violently in the Iraq war, three of whom have been killed since December.

However, kidnappings or killings of average Iraqis also have become common, either for ransom or because of political or personal rivalries.

Mohammed's friend said the gunmen, who were armed with Glock pistols and AK-47 automatic rifles, took their captives to a farm and questioned them for a day. He said he was kept in a separate room but could hear Mohammed being questioned and beaten next door.

The AP did not release information on the kidnapping earlier because it had been in touch with U.S. military authorities in the region in the hope of finding Mohammed. American forces in the area also have alerted Iraqi authorities and police.

Mohammed, married and with children, began working for the news agency in fall 2006.


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