BAGHDAD, Iraq – Gunmen kidnapped 29 people in Baghdad on Monday, while Iraq's latest wave of violence killed 27 people, including four Iraqi soldiers in a homicide bombing.
The interior minister faced calls for his dismissal because of the worsening security crisis in Baghdad and surrounding towns, mostly blamed on sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.
The Iraqi government said Monday that 30,359 families have fled their homes to escape sectarian violence from mid-February until July 30, or roughly 182,000 people. Baghdad accounted for the highest number of displaced.
An Iraqi vice president confirmed Monday that Cabinet changes would be made soon but did not specify which ministers would be replaced.
Gunmen in military fatigues drove to the main shopping area of Karrada in 15 vehicles and split into two groups, one going into a mobile phone shop and the other into the office next door of the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce, said police Lt. Thair Mahmoud.
They kidnapped 15 staff and customers from the shop and 11 from the chamber, he said. All were believed to be Iraqis. No other details were available.
In a second kidnapping, gunmen in commando uniforms, blocked a car carrying a millionaire businessman and his two sons, seizing the three in southeastern Baghdad, said police Lt. Bilal Ali Majeed.
Kidnappings for ransom have become rampant in recent months. Abductions are believed to be a major source of income not only for criminal gangs but also insurgents fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces.
The homicide bomber detonated a pickup truck near an Iraqi observation post outside the northern city of Mosul, killing four Iraqi soldiers and wounding six, said an army officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release such information.
A day earlier, gunmen ordered four policemen and a lawyer out of their car and beheaded them near the northern town of Hawija, 150 miles north of Baghdad, said police Col. Burhan Tayeb.
Random killings have become an almost daily occurrence. On Monday, one policeman was killed in a roadside bomb and nine in drive-by shootings across the country, including two vendors selling cooking gas cylinders in Baghdad.
Police also discovered Monday the bullet-riddled bodies of eight people in Baghdad and its suburbs.
Several key Iraqi parliament members are pressing to replace Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, who is responsible for police and paramilitary commandos, at the forefront of the fight against extremists in the capital.
"Baghdad is the security key of Iraq. A quarter of the [country's] populations is living in Baghdad, so the security is very important on political, economic and social aspects," Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi told The Associated Press Monday.
He said changes in the Cabinet would be made soon but did not say who would be replaced. He said some of the political blocs were interested in replacing ministers they themselves had nominated.
Al-Bolani, a Shiite, was chosen for the sensitive post after protracted negotiations among the various religious and ethnic parties within the national unity government. The interior and defense posts were filled in June, nearly three weeks after the rest of the Cabinet.