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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gunmen Kidnap Iranian Official

BAGHDAD -- Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms kidnapped a senior Iranian diplomat in Baghdad on Sunday, Iraqi and Iranian officials said Tuesday, and Tehran said it held U.S. forces responsible for his safety.

"We are dealing with this as a kidnapping," an Iraqi official said.

The official said the diplomat, the second secretary at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, was snatched by 30 gunmen wearing the uniforms of a special Iraqi army unit that often works with U.S. military forces in Iraq.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini confirmed the kidnapping of Jalal Sharafi by a group related to Iraq's Defense Ministry that "works under the supervision of American forces," the Iranian Students News Agency said.

U.S. forces in Iraq have arrested a number of Iranians, including some diplomats, in the past two months, and are still holding five Iranians. Washington accuses Tehran of funding and training militants fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. embassy or U.S. military officials, but Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, blamed Washington for the kidnapping. U.S. President George W. Bush vowed in January to disrupt what he called the "flow of support" from Tehran to Iraqi militants.

"It seems that this terrorist act has been committed in the framework of Bush's order and with the goal of escalating the confrontation with Iran," Qomi said.

Hosseini said Sharafi was kidnapped outside a bank in the Iraqi capital. The Iraqi official said the gunmen drove in four-wheel-drive vehicles and a BMW and were wearing uniforms of the Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion, a special operations unit that works with U.S. forces.