BAGHDAD (Reuters) -Gunmen in police uniforms abducted up to 50 employees of various Baghdad transport companies on Monday, police and Interior Ministry sources said.
They carried out what appeared to be a coordinated operation along a Baghdad street that is home to several companies offering transport to Syria and Jordan, police said.
The abductions came a day after Iraqi leaders failed to agree on nominees for the interior and defense posts which were left vacant when a national unity government was sworn in on May 20.
Iraq’s political blocs were expected to agree on names to be presented to parliament on Sunday but a deal fell through and the assembly session was postponed, dealing a blow to new Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Political sources said Maliki’s rivals in his Shi’ite Alliance had objected to his choice for interior minister.
Maliki now faces a deep political crisis over the top security posts as he tries to show Iraqis he means business about stabilizing the country.
Last week he launched a state of emergency in the southern city of Basra to crack down on gangs and feuding Shi’ite factions threatening oil exports vital to saving the economy.
But a car bomb killed at least 28 people in Basra on Saturday and Sunni politicians accused his security forces of killing nine unarmed worshippers at a mosque hours later. Police said they were fired on from the mosque.
And violence kept raging across Iraq.
Gunmen dragged 24 people, mostly teenage students, from vehicles and shot them dead in a small town north of Baghdad on Sunday, police said.
The abductions in Baghdad in broad daylight showed how far Maliki has to go to establish law and order three years after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.
Three suspects in the kidnap and murder of Iraqi-British aid worker Margaret Hassan in 2004 were going on trial in Baghdad on Monday, a British official said.
Iraqi judicial officials were not immediately available for comment on what was believed to be one of the first, if not the very first, known trial for the abduction or killing of a foreign-born civilian in Iraq.
Hassan, an Iraqi-British national who had lived in Iraq for more than three decades after marrying an Iraqi engineer, was head of the Iraqi operation of the CARE International charity.
She was abducted while traveling to work in Baghdad in October 2004, and was killed about a month later after appealing in video messages made by her abductors for British forces to withdraw from Iraq.
No group claimed responsibility for the abduction or the killing, and her body has not been found.
Kidnappings are still a major part of the security crisis.
Gunmen killed a Russian embassy employee on Saturday and kidnapped four others in Baghdad.
In Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone, ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and seven co-accused returned to court to face charges of crimes against humanity in the killings of 149 Shi’ites in the early 1980s.