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Kidnappers Take Four Captive After Storming Baghdad Office

By Edward Wong

The New York Times -- BAGHDAD, Iraq

Kidnappers armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades stormed an office in western Baghdad on Monday, overpowering the armed guards and snatching four people, including an American, Iraqi police officials said.

One Iraqi guard and one attacker were killed, officials said. Besides the American, those taken hostage were a Nepalese and two Arabs from outside Iraq.

“They stormed the villa with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades,” one police official told Reuters. “They had no chance.”

News agencies reported that the four captives worked for the Saudi Arabian Trading and Contracting Co., a Riyadh-based company owned by Saudi and Lebanese businessmen that supplies American forces in Iraq, though there was no immediate confirmation of this.

The American was not identified, and by early Tuesday no one had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Earlier on Monday, gunmen ambushed and killed the deputy governor of Baghdad province, Hatim Kamil, as he drove to work. Two of Kamil’s bodyguards were wounded, the police said. Insurgents have stepped up a campaign of assassinations against Iraqi government officials, a tactic that is slowly draining the country of its skilled bureaucrats and has American military officials increasingly worried.

In the provincial capital Ramadi, a freelance cameraman working for Reuters was killed, apparently by a sniper, possibly a Marine. The violence across Iraq unfolded as negotiations continued over a peace agreement to avert a planned American invasion of Fallujah, the insurgent stronghold 35 miles west of the capital. In an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper, the Iraqi president, Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar, said talks must continue, and that insurgents “want nothing but a military solution and the continuation of bleeding for Iraqis.”

His comments were a sharp contrast to those of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who on Sunday warned that time was running out for a peaceful solution and that he was quite willing to order an invasion.

“I completely disagree with those who see a need to decide the matter through military action,” the president told the daily Al Qabas. “The coalition’s handling of this crisis is wrong. It’s like someone who shoots at his horse’s head just because a fly has landed on it.”