Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

German journalist 'kidnapped' in Iraq' as gov't faces pressure to rein in armed groups

A German woman who is prominent on Iraq's art scene has been kidnapped in Baghdad, security officials and activists said on Tuesday.

Hella Mewis has lived in the Iraqi capital for seven years and runs an arts programme for young people in the city as well as being a rights activist.

Mewis was taken from outside the Beit Tarkib arts centre on Baghdad's Abu Nawas street around 8 pm on Monday evening by armed men in two vehicles, one security official and human rights monitors said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, on a visit to Athens on Tuesday, said his ministry had established a crisis task force to deal with her disappearance, according to the news outlet, but added he did not want to talk about the case in detail given the sensitive nature of the situation.

Her kidnap came in the wake of unrest and protests that moved across Baghdad and Iraq's south, which is majority Shia, in October.

Demonstrators called out the country's government saying it was incompetent, corrupt and bound to Iran.

The violence that was sparked from the months-long protests saw over 500 killed, including several well-known activists who were shot in Baghdad and other cities for speaking out against armed groups.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who traveled to Tehran on Tuesday on an official trip, has promised to rein in armed groups.

But pressure is mounting on the government to act following a series of rocket attacks targeting US installations, as well as assassinations and disappearances in Iraq.

"We call on the Iraqi security authorities to strive seriously and expeditiously to search for her," said activist Hana Edwar, during a press conference following her disappearance.

Two weeks ago, armed men killed internationally-renowned historian and terrorism expert Husham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi, in Baghdad.

National media directed suspicion at Iranian-backed militia and the terrorist militia ISIS, but no group has claimed responsibility for the killing.

Political commentators have suggested Hashemi's death was embroiled in the struggle between Kadhimi, who is US-friendly, and powerful Iran-backed militias.