BAGHDAD, Iraq – An American citizen and two Iraqis were kidnapped in northern Basra Friday, FOX News has confirmed.
Two civilian vehicles with masked gunmen intercepted the American's car and abducted him, his translator and their Iraqi driver to an unknown location.
The identity of the American is not known yet, according to Basra police officer who told FOX News of the incident.
"We're aware of the reports and are trying to determine the status and welfare of the individual in question," U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said.
Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a spokesman for the British military, said a Western employee of a private security firm had been kidnapped. He declined to comment further.
The British have a large contingent of troops based in Basra.
Meanwhile, a prominent Sunni Arab group cited alleged links between the Iraqi government and Shiite militias involved in sectarian violence, and said authorities should be held responsible for any attacks by the armed groups. The government said the group's claims were false and could incite rebellion.
A Sunni clerical group, the Association of Muslim Scholars, said it had obtained information that militias were planning to attack neighborhoods in Baghdad, in line with bloody assaults this year pitting members of Iraq's majority Shiites against Sunni Arabs who had dominated the country under Saddam Hussein.
"We also have come to know that some officials in this government know of this criminal scheme, which raises suspicions that they are collaborating with these militias," the association said in a statement.
"The Association of Muslim Scholars holds the current Iraqi government and the occupation forces responsible for any injustice against Iraqi people," said the group, which is believed to have links to the Sunni Arab-led insurgency fighting the Iraqi government and U.S.-led forces.
A significant portion of the Iraqi national police is believed to be aligned with militias, and U.S. officials have said efforts are under way to weed out corrupt security agents.
The office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the Sunni group's statement was wrong.
"What has been written in the statement of the Association of Muslim Scholars is absolutely incorrect and it could provoke sedition," al-Maliki's office said. "We hold the association responsible for anything could happen as a result of this."
On Friday, a bomb stashed in a garbage can at a market exploded, shaking parts of central Baghdad. Police said there were no reports of injuries.
Shop owners at Bab al-Sharji, a series of storefronts selling used electronics and clothing that abuts a park, spotted an explosive device in the garbage. It detonated shortly after 9 a.m., as authorities moved to cordon off the area.
On Thursday, twin car bombs killed 13 people in a Baghdad neighborhood after a downturn in violence during an Islamic holiday. The explosions in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood went off one after another at 10:30 a.m., setting fire to a gas station and incinerating at least a half dozen cars. In addition to the dead, police said at least 25 people were wounded.
Mansour is a primarily Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad. During Saddam's regime, it was home to the most elite Iraqi families; many international embassies remain there, though shuttered.
Police said 47 tortured bodies were found dumped across Baghdad on Thursday, up from 27 a day earlier. An American soldier was killed by small arms fire in western Baghdad, the military announced.
Meanwhile, Iraq's interior minister said whoever recorded Saddam's hanging on a cell phone camera would be punished. Iraqi officials have said two Justice Ministry guards were being questioned.
The grainy video shows Saddam being taunted in his final moments Saturday, to shouts of "Go to hell!" and "Muqtada, Muqtada" — a reference to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who commands a Shiite militia responsible for violence against Saddam's fellow Sunnis.
The video was splashed on television screens and Web sites, startling the world with its ghastly depiction of Saddam's death and the chaos that preceded it. Many Iraqis loaded it onto cell phones.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.