Sunni Female Politician Kidnapped in Baghdad

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Gunmen kidnapped a Sunni female member of parliament in Baghdad on Saturday along with her guards, the parliament speaker's office said.

Tayseer Mashhadani, an engineer, was seized in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Shaab, the officials said.

Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani described the kidnapping as "a major development and a violation against the will of the Iraqi people." He called the kidnappers to release her immediately and urged security authorities to open an investigation into the case and work for her release saying they are responsible for her safety.

A Sunni legislator told The Associated Press that Mashhadani was coming from the eastern province of Diyala in a three-car convoy which was stopped by heavily-armed gunmen using at least seven cars.

"They were taken to an unknown destination," said Sunni legislator Mohammed al-Daeni. Mashhadani was coming to Baghdad to attend a parliament meeting on Sunday, he said.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni political group, condemned the kidnapping and said in a statement that it holds the defense and interior ministers responsible for the ongoing violence in the capital.

The statement said Mashhadani and seven of her eight guards were kidnapped by some 30 gunmen in civilian uniforms.

The statement added that some of the gunmen were carrying pistols used by authorities, in an apparent reference to Shiite militias believed to be working under the Interior Ministry.

The group's deputy secretary-general, Ayad al-Sammaraie, said acts of kidnapping and killing "aim to complicate things more and make any national reconciliation difficult by making animosity among Iraqis reach a point where they cannot sit together and talk."

Hamdi Hassoun, an official with the Iraqi Islamic Party branch in Baqouba, said Mashhadani was heading from the city to Baghdad.

After checking Mashhadani's identity card, the gunmen asked her along with her bodyguards to step out and put them in other cars and drove away, said Hassoun.

One bodyguard managed to escape, added the official of the Iraqi Islamic Party to which she belonged.

Mashhadani's party is part of the Iraqi Accordance Front, a Sunni bloc that holds 44 seats in the 275-member parliament.