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US seeks 3 Americans missing in Iraq

State Department spokesman said US is working with full cooperation of Iraqi authorities to recover Americans
Iraqi government forces have begun an operation to find three missing Americans (AFP)
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US and Iraqi authorities are searching for three American citizens who were reportedly kidnapped in Baghdad, officials from the two countries said on Sunday.

Kidnappings are a problem in Baghdad and other parts of the country and most frequently target Iraqis, but Qatari and Turkish citizens have also been seized in recent months.

"We are aware of reports that American citizens are missing in Iraq," US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

"We are working with the full cooperation of the Iraqi authorities to locate and recover the individuals," Kirby added, without providing further details.

An Iraqi police colonel said on the condition of anonymity that three Americans and an Iraqi translator were kidnapped in southern Baghdad, and that Iraqi forces have launched an operation to find them.

The officer said according to information he'd received, the kidnappers were wearing military-style uniforms.

Iraq turned to paramilitary forces dominated by Iranian-backed Shia militias to help combat the Islamic State (IS) group, which overran large parts of the country in 2014.

These groups, which fall under an umbrella organisation known as the Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation units, have played a key role in the fight against IS.

But they have also been accused of abuses including summary executions, kidnappings and destruction of property.

The US is leading a coalition that has bombed thousands of IS targets in Iraq and Syria and is providing training to Iraqi government forces.

The US has also dispatched special forces to Iraq to carry out raids against IS.

Both American forces and Shia paramilitaries are battling IS, but relations between the two sides have been tense in light of fighting between them in the years after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

IS also has ample motive to target Americans, but while it is able to carry out bombings in Baghdad, it does not have a major presence in the city.