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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

KidnappersKill Iraqi Hostages

BAGHDAD -- Kidnappers who seized dozens of men from an Iraqi government building two days ago tortured and killed some of them, the minister for higher education said Thursday, citing the testimony of freed hostages.

The comments from Abd Dhiab, who said some 70 hostages remained missing, underlined rifts in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has said all but a handful of around 40 hostages had been freed.

Tuesday's raid by gunmen in police uniform raised new fears that sectarian militias were out of control, despite calls by the United States for Maliki to disband armed groups loyal to his Shiite allies.

One hostage, from the Sunni minority, spoke of being taken with others in a well-organized operation to the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City before being released late Wednesday.

Speaking of his "great sadness," Maliki told reporters on a visit to Turkey his government was planning measures to improve security: "We will not allow revenge attacks," he said.

The fact that at least a substantial number of hostages, including Sunnis, were released may indicate a degree of success on the part of the government in applying pressure on militias that notionally support some of its key figures.

Iraqi Higher Education Minister Abd Dhiab, a Sunni, said around 70 hostages had been released out of about 150 people seized from one of his ministry's buildings.