Kidnapped Iraqi journalist Afrah Shawqi is freed

#InsideIraq

Afrah Shawqi was kidnapped from her home in southern Baghdad by several gunmen on 26 December

Protesters hold portraits of Iraqi female journalist Afrah Shawqi during a demonstration calling for her release on 30 December 2016, in Baghdad (AFP)
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Wednesday 4 January 2017 10:59 UTC
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Iraqi journalist Afrah Shawqi was released on Tuesday, a week after being abducted from her Baghdad home by gunmen, her sister and security officials said.

"It's true," her sister Nibras Shawqi told AFP in a text message when asked about reports of her sibling's release.

Iraq's Joint Operations Command in Baghdad also confirmed she was free.

Afrah Shawqi, 43, is employed by Asharq al-Awsat, a London-based pan-Arab newspaper, as well as a number of news websites, including Aklaam.

Afrah, a mother of two young boys, was kidnapped from her home in southern Baghdad by between eight and 15 gunmen late on 26 December. The kidnappers forced Afrah to go with them after they took some money, laptops and mobile phones. They also left with her private car.

READ: Criminal kidnappings are big business in Baghdad

Last week, she published a stinging article on the website in which she hit out at the armed groups, which "act with impunity" in Iraq.

During a press conference before news of her release on Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said that the motives of the kidnapping were both political and criminal.

Iraq is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, along with Syria, Afghanistan and Mexico. Kidnappings in Baghdad are happening at an alarming rate, according to a recent Middle East Eye report.

Iraqi security officials reached by MEE did not give specific numbers for criminal abductions in Baghdad, but a source with access to Interior Ministry records told MEE there were 745 registered instances of kidnapping in the capital in the first nine months of 2016.

Seven journalists were killed in the country in 2016, according to press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, whose World Press Freedom index last year ranks Iraq 158th out of 180 countries.