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France warns citizens to avoid Iraq

France warns citizens to avoid Iraq
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France is promising to do all it can for the latest Westerner taken hostage in Iraq in the upmarket Baghdad suburb of Mansour. Engineer Bernard Planche was seized outside his home by armed men. Neighbours saw him screaming as he was beaten and dragged to a getaway car.

This is the third kidnapping involving Westerners in Iraq in 10 days, after a lull in such abductions in recent months. French officials in Baghdad say Planche worked for an NGO at a water treatment plant. Paris, which opposed the US invasion of Iraq, has already had to deal with two kidnappings involving French journalists who were eventually released. The French prime minister has warned his citizens that there is formal advice not to travel to Iraq. Planche’s kidnapping follows that of German archaeologist and aid worker Susanne Osthoff on November 25 and that of four Christian peace activists the following day. Efforts are underway to try to win their release. Thousands of civilians have been kidnapped in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, including more than 200 foreigners. Most have been released but about 50 have been executed.