Gunmen dressed as police commandos kidnapped up to 150 staff and visitors in a lightning raid on a Baghdad research institute Tuesday, the largest mass abduction since the start of the U.S. occupation.
Iraq's higher education minister immediately ordered all universities closed until security improvements are made, saying he was "not ready to see more professors get killed.
"I have only one choice which is to suspend classes at universities. We have no other choice," Abed Theyab said in an address to parliament. Theyab said he had repeatedly petitioned for more university security from the ministries of defense and interior, who command the police, but had received none.
Alaa Makki, head of the parliament's education committee, interrupted the body's session Tuesday morning to say that between 100 and 150 people, both Shiites and Sunnis, had been abducted in the 9:30 a.m. (0630 GMT) raid.
That's from AP's story on the mass kidnapping in Iraq today. Here's Sam Knight (and agencies)'s "Iraq stunned by kidnap of 150 people" (Times of London):
The proceedings of the Iraqi parliament were halted in shock this morning by reports that as many as 150 people were abducted from the offices of the Higher Education Ministry in central Baghdad.
A convoy of around 40 new, camouflaged pick-up vehicles was seen surrounding two buildings of the ministry's Scientific Research Directorate in Karradah, a religiously-mixed neighbourhood, at around 9:30am local time this morning.
Gunmen dressed as police commandos were then seeing lining up a crowd of men in the car park of the Sunni-led ministry, handcuffing them and leading them away. A civil servant who happened to be in the bank at the time of the raid watched as the gunmen searched the victims' identity cards, sorting Sunnis from Shias.
"They were checking identity cards in the car park. They picked only the Sunni employees. They even took the man who was just delivering tea," the witnesss, a Sunni himself, told Reuters. "They gathered them all in the pick-ups. At the same time, I saw two police patrols watching, doing nothing."
Will it mean independent media will stop playing fantasy football over the elections and deal with reality (or the reality of today as opposed to revisiting the past while Iraq sinks further)?
In campus news, Serena notes Christina Hildreth's "Fighting aparthy: not your parents' protest: Campus has only one group devoted to war protest" (Michigan Daily):
"I felt it was utterly absurd that there was no student anti-war group on campus," said Smith, who organized the new group's first meeting and has since taken a lead in recruiting new members and organizing events. "I felt obliged to do something about that."
Drawing support from a strong local activist community, Smith launched the group at the beginning of the semester. Though aimed at students, the group's meetings have attracted working young adults and middle-aged Socialists. Legendary Ann Arbor activist Alan Haber, who helped found Students for a Democratic Society in 1959, attended the first meeting. Since then, Anti-war Action has worked with local groups like Michigan Peaceworks to plan and publicize anti-war events.
The group counts 37 names on its e-mail list and is slowly growing. In their first protest in several weeks, Smith, Lomize and four other group members campaigned yesterday for several hours on the Diag, the holy ground of campus protesters.
In the activist tradition, they set out to raise awareness, handing out flyers advertising a speech last night by the father of First Lt. Ehren Watada, the first U.S. military officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.
On the topic of Ehren Watada, Fred notes D.D. Delaney's "Putting the War On Trial" (Port Folio Weekly):
It may be a tough sell -- drumming up public support in a military town for a commissioned Army officer expected to be court martialed for refusing deployment to Iraq.
But Bob Watada will try to do just that at Norfolk's 40th Street Stage on Wednesday, Nov. 15, when he speaks in defense of his son, 1st Lt. Ehren Watada,
On June 22, Watada, stationed at Fort Lewis near Seattle, did not join his battalion onboard an airliner bound for Kuwait to prepare for the war in Iraq. He is the first U.S. commissioned officer to refuse service there. The case is attracting widespread media attention, not only for its first-of-a-kind drama, but because Watada’s defense intends to put the legality of the Iraq war on trial.
The elder Watada's appearance here, with Ehren's step-mother, Rosa Sakanishi, comes near the end of a nation-wide tour which they've named "Putting the War on Trial." Their mission, says Watada, is "to inform people about why my son has taken his stand...and made public statements as to the war being illegal and immoral."
"In past cases where there has been considerable public support for the defense," he says, "the Army has mitigated the charges."
But Watada also hopes to educate a "very complacent" American public about what his son discovered when he "researched the reasons" for the war and "found out the President had lied --about weapons of mass destruction, about chemical weapons, about the connection between Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Iraq, and about our being there to make a democracy.
"We are there," he says, "because Bush wants to colonize and privatize Iraq for multinational corporations."
So Iraq falls futher into chaos and violence and Bully Boy has photo-ops that wouldn't have cut it in 2004 (but he's "open"! -- he says). And Ehren Watada prepares for the court-martial expected next year and independent media still fails to their audience that the military decided (last week) to court-martial him.
Who knows what they'll gas bag about today but, no doubt, they'll have something.
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