Missing German woman 'kidnapped in Baghdad', say security sources

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A German woman who appears to be missing in Baghdad was kidnapped outside her office late on Monday night, security sources said.

Hella Mewis, who ran arts programmes at the Iraqi cultural collective Tarkib, left her office and was "riding her bicycle when two cars, one of them a white pickup truck used by some security forces, were seen kidnapping her," the security source said.

There is no indication she has been detained by any of the country's security agencies.

Police officers at the local station witnessed the kidnapping but did not intervene, the source added.

Ms Mewis's phone was unreachable on Monday and the German embassy in Baghdad had no immediate comment.

A friend of the German national told AFP she had been worried following the killing of Iraq scholar Husham Al Hashimi, who had supported the anti-government protests last year.

Iraqi protesters run for cover as they clash with security forces on Al Jumhuriyah in the capital Baghdad, following an anti-government demonstration. AFP

Demonstrators gesture as they take part in the ongoing anti-government protests after newly-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi called for the release of all detained protesters, at Al Jumhuriya bridge in Baghdad, Iraq. REUTERS

Demonstrators gesture as they take part in the ongoing anti-government protests after newly-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi called for the release of all deatined protesters, at Al Jumhuriya bridge in Baghdad, Iraq. REUTERS

Demonstrators gesture as they take part in the ongoing anti-government protests after newly-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi called for the release of all detained protesters, at Al Jumhuriya bridge in Baghdad, Iraq. REUTERS

An Iraqi protester holds a smoke grenade fired by security forces amid clashes following an anti-government demonstration in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province. AFP

Iraqi protesters gather to block a street during an anti-government demonstration in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province. AFP

Iraqi protesters hurl stones at security forces amid clashes following an anti-government demonstration in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province. AFP

An Iraqi protester looks on as others wave national flags during an anti-government demonstration on Al Jumhuriyah bridge in the capital Baghdad. AFP

Iraqi protesters wave national flags during an anti-government demonstration on Al Jumhuriyah bridge in the capital Baghdad. AFP

Iraqi protesters gather amid clashes with security forces following an anti-government demonstration in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province. AFP

Iraqi protesters affected by smoke grenades receive help amid clashes with security forces following an anti-government demonstration in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province. AFP

Iraqi protesters flee smoke grenades fired by security forces amid clashes following an anti-government demonstration in Iraq's southern city of Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province. AFP

An Iraqi demonstrator tries to smash a concrete wall during ongoing anti-government protests after newly-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called for the release of all detained protesters, at Jumhuriya bridge in Baghdad, Iraq. REUTERS

Ms Mewis, a curator who was working on establishing an art collective to promote young Iraqi artists, has lived in Baghdad for several years.

"I spoke to her [Ms Mewis] last week and she was really involved in the protests too, so she was nervous after the assassination," said the friend Dhikra Sarsam.

Widespread demonstrations erupted in Baghdad and Iraq's Shiite-majority south last year, railing against a government seen as corrupt, inept and beholden to Iran.

Over 600 people were killed in protest-related violence, including two dozen activists who were shot dead by unidentified men, usually on motorcycles.

Dozens more were kidnapped, some of whom were later released near their homes. The whereabouts of others remain unknown.

Amnesty International has slammed the incidents as "a growing lethal campaign of harassment, intimidation, abductions and deliberate killings of activists and protesters."

This year has seen a worrying spike in abductions of foreigners, who had not been targeted in several years.

On New Year's Eve, two French freelance journalists were taken hostage for 36 hours and three French NGO workers were held for two months.

In both cases, neither the kidnappers nor the conditions of their releases were revealed.

Updated: July 21, 2020 09:44 AM

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