Portuguese Journalist Kidnapped in Iraq

Gunmen opened fire on jeeps carrying Portuguese journalists in southern Iraq on Friday, wounding one reporter and kidnapping another, officials said.

U.S. and British troops as well as Portuguese police were searching for the gunmen and the missing reporter, according to a government statement.

The six journalists were traveling in a convoy of three jeeps from the Kuwaiti border to Basra (search) when they came under attack, Lisbon-based radio TSF reported. They had no military escort.

On an open stretch of road, two vehicles containing five armed men pulled up alongside the convoy and began shooting, one of the journalists — Sofia Lorena of the newspaper Publico (search) — told S.I.C. television by satellite telephone.

The front two jeeps managed to flee and reach Basra but the third attempted to turn around when it was captured, she said.

Maria Joao Ruela, who works for S.I.C., underwent surgery at a British military hospital after being shot in the leg, a government statement said. She was in stable condition.

A TSF reporter in the convoy, Carlos Raleiras (search), was abducted. He was later contacted on his satellite phone by the Portuguese news agency Lusa.

"I've been kidnapped. It's a very confused situation. I can't talk now," Raleiras told the agency. Raleiras was not wounded in the attack, the other reporters said.

He said he was not harmed but was unable to communicate with his captors because he doesn't speak Arabic.

The journalists were heading to Basra where Portuguese police are deploying with British forces.

Portugal sent 128 police officers to Iraq as planned Wednesday, but rerouted them to Basra instead of Nasiriyah (search), where a bombing attack at the Italian paramilitary base killed more than two dozen people.

The journalists were from S.I.C., state television Radiotelevisao Portuguesa, private channel TVI, TSF, radio station Renascenca, and daily paper Publico.

On Thursday, armed men briefly detained three Portuguese journalists on a road near and robbed one of them before U.S. troops arrived.

Armed men in jeeps intercepted the journalists' vehicles, one carrying a reporter and a photographer from daily Jornal de Noticias and the other with a reporter from state radio Radiodifusao Portuguesa, as they approached Basra.